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Preface — A Portrait Comes to Life vii 



I. Memories of Sigmund Freud 3 

II. Last Visit with Freud 25 

III, Freud and His Followers 3$ 

IV. Students or Sorcerer's Apprentices? 45 


V. An Unknown Lecture of Freud's 63 



VI. "Civilization and Its Discontents" 97 

VII. "The Future of an Illusion" i 18 

VIII. Note on "A Religious Experience" 140 

IX. The Study on Dostoyevsky 158 


X. Embarrassment in Greeting 179 

XL On the Nature of Jewish Wit 185 



XII. The Way of All Flesh 197 

XIII. The Latent Meaning of Elliptical 

Distortion 213 

XIV. Man's Dual Need for Society and 

Solitude 225 

XV. The Echo of the Proverb 228 








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It is just two o'clock in the morning. The last 
news summary on Station WHN reports the 
terms that Hitler and Mussolini will offer van- 
quished France. From Sixth Avenue comes the noise 
of automobiles. Now and then the voices of people 
returning from parties steal through my window. 
I am still sitting at my desk, struggling with the 
book that has occupied me for fifteen years. Always 
the work was interrupted, postponed — other books, 
like this one, were written and published in the in- 
terval — and always I returned to the work again, 
for it would not release me. I am discouraged and 
tired. My eyes are burning. I should like to bundle 
up the pile of manuscript and notes, stuff it into a 
61e and be done with it. Then my eyes chance upon 
the portrait that hangs above my desk. The light 
falls on the head, and for a moment it seems as 
though Freud were alive again. I see him again at 
his desk, see him stand up, come forward and ex- 
tend his hand to me with that bold, characteristic 
gesture. I see him shuffling the manuscripts on the 
desk aside, opening a box of cigars, and holding it 
out to me. 



I have stood for nearly half an hour before this 
portrait, paced up and down the room, and now I 
have returned to it again, strangely moved. I re- 
member the day the Viennese etcher Max Pollak 
first exhibited it at Hugo Heller's galleries. That 
must have been in 1913. A small number of the 
etchings had been executed on subscription. 

A dimly lighted room. In the foreground, on 
the desk, antique bronzes and figurines, dug up out 
of the ruins of centuries, phantoms of the past. 
They stand out starkly against the picture's white 
border. Freud's head, bent forward slightly, out- 
lined distinctly. The eyebrows lifted as though in 
deep attention. Ridges on the high forehead and two 
deep furrows running down from the mouth to the 
short white beard. The eyes gaze into the beholder 
and yet see beyond him. How often have I looked 
into those eyes. They have an expression of hardy 
quest, as though their gaze had wholly merged into 
their object; and yet they valued that object only 
for the knowledge it gave. One hand holds the pen 
loosely, as though the sudden vision of a long- 
sought answer has interrupted the writing. The 
other hand lies slack on the paper. The light from 
the window at the side of the room highlights but 
one side of the forehead. The face is in shadow, 
with only the eyes gleaming steelily . . . There 
suddenly comes to my mind some words of his. It 
was during a walk, and I had asked him how he 
felt when he first captured the psychic perceptions 

[ viii ] 


contained in Totem and Taboo. I probably spoke 
rather floridly, saying something about an over- 
whelming joy, for he answered, "I felt nothing like 
that; simply an extraordinary clarity." . . . He 
was an unusually keen observer with a deep respect 
for the data of the senses. 

How often since that first momentous visit I 
sat with him at this desk. (I remember that impor- 
tant occasion in 1912 when I announced to him that 
now that I had my Ph.D. I intended to study medi- 
cine. He advised me strongly against it, saying, "I 
have other things in mind for you, larger plans." 
He insisted that I go on with my psychoanalytical 
research work.) How often my eyes wandered rev- 
erently over the antiques upon his desk as I dis- 
cussed psychological problems with him. Here, in 
this portrait, the sculptures seem symbolic. For the 
life that Freud showed us was resurrected like them 
from the dust of centuries. This man had rolled 
away the stone from a wisdom that had lain long 
underground, utterly hidden. In unflagging, dili- 
gent archeological work, he had brought forth from 
the deepest strata precious finds whose existence 
none had suspected. 

For a moment the figure in the etching seemed 
to be alive, seemed to step out of the past into the 
present. It was as though Freud himself stood up 
from the chair at his desk in his home in the Berg- 
gasse and made as if to approach me. For the space 



of a few quickened heart-beats I thought: he is 

I know, now that the impression has passed, 
that we are called again to the labor of sorrow, 
that unseen, prolonged process of separation in 
which we take leave of our dear departed. It is 
work against great odds, for so many objects, 
places, and circumstances remind us of the time he 
was still with us. How can we accomplish this work 
which takes place so heart-breakingly in the midst 
of memory ? Yet this silent process of the psyche is 
necessary, for our energy must be dedicated to the 
demands of the day. 

For me the demand of the day is to continue 
my work, to write those books which I have so long 
borne within me, to complete the researches I have 
begun. That moment when Freud's picture seemed 
to come to life now assumes more than momentary 
meaning. His memory has given me new heart, has 
set before me his example, his unerring and tire- 
less striving. 

Once more — and for the last time — I shall 
briefly interrupt the work on that accursed book, 
since I wish to preserve my memories of Freud, and 
I must look through what I have written and add 
to the old. 

Tomorrow — no, this morning — the radio will 
announce what Hitler and Mussolini have decreed 
shall be the fate of Europe. But however they de- 
cide, the future of Europe is not a thing obedient 



to their decisions. The future of humanity will not 
be wrought by wars and conquests, but by the quiet 
work of the mind. The lamp that burns in the night 
over the scientist's desk gives more powerful light 
than artillery fire.^reud shall live long after Hitler I 
and Mussolini are dust. 

Theodor Reik 
June ig, 1940 







IN this chapter I have set down memories garnered 
through the thirty years of my closeness to Freud, 
years during which his work and his personality 
were an invaluable inspiration to me. Many great 
minds have cast their influence over me, but none 
more lastingly than he. It has been my fortune to 
meet many noble figures, and they meant a good deal 
to me. But none meant as much as he, and no man 
that I knew was a source of so much happiness 
to me. 

The memories and impressions recorded here 
are largely of personal matters. They dwell on Freud 
chiefly as man and scientist, and not on the substance 
of his scientific work. My own life work and my 
books may testify to what profound effect Freud's 
scientific work has had upon me. The achievements 
of the disciple are the laurels of the master. 

Moreover, I have no ambition to write a biogra- 
phy of Freud. I wish simply to set down certain im- 
pressions of the days when he lived and wrought 
good. I hope that in these pages I have once more 
summoned him up to life through the sorcery of 
memory, memory which quickens the strangely 



mingled feelings of joy at having known him and 
grief at having him no longer. When I think of him 
I feel no definite sorrow, for his death is still too 
close. Sorrow does not come until long afterwards, 
when we feel that he is no longer here. As yet I do 
not feel it ; I merely know it. And, indeed, I do not 
always know it. Often, when I am musing over cer- 
tain ideas, I surprise myself thinking that I shall 
write to him about them. I wonder what he will think 
about them — I find myself considering how to phrase 
the problem, and I hear myself murmuring the salu- 
tation under my breath, ''Dear Herr Professor . . ." 
And then I remember. And sorrow stirs, the harsh 
feeling of loss. But it only stirs, like something that 
has not yet been born but is still maturing toward 

I am certain that the next few years will see a 
flood of books and articles on Freud. Scholars and 
laymen, writers and journalists, will chronicle the 
life and work of this genius. The cinema world has 
already announced several films which are to deal 
with psychoanalysis. (Freud had no great liking for 
the movies. Only the genius of Charlie Chaplin's 
pantomime appealed to him.) Yet most of these fu- 
ture biographers will have known Freud only a brief 
time and most of them will understand little of the 
man and his work. 

Certainly I do not wish to vaunt an intimacy that 
did not exist. In his books and in conversation Freud 
often named me as one of his friends. But I myself 



have never ventured to claim that I was one. One is 
not "intimate" with a genius, however familiarly he 
may speak to one as a friend. In conversation with 
me Freud was never circumspect or aloof; he was 
always friendly and personal — more so than ever in 
the last years. But the separation was too wide. 
There was always a barrier. My friend, Dr. Hanns 
Sachs, one of the most prominent psychoanalysts in 
this country, admits that he had the same feeling in 
the presence of the great man. In the beautiful eulogy 
he wrote after Freud's death he closes with the 
words, "He was, so to speak, made out of better stuff 
than ordinary people." In this, however, I am at odds 
with my esteemed friend. It would be truer to say 
that Freud was made of the selfsame stuff as all of 
us. But he molded and shaped and worked this paltry 
material with unceasing labor and self-education, 
strove until he formed himself into some greater 
figure, of a stature unique in our age. 

Let us avoid making a legend of him. He him- 
self would not have wished it. Some sixteen years 
ago in Vienna, on the occasion of his seventieth 
birthday, his disciples were preparing a birthday 
celebration. Then came the sudden death of Dr. Karl 
Abraham, whom Freud perhaps considered his most 
talented follower. Freud had heard of our prepara- 
tions and asked us to abandon them. "One does not 
celebrate a wedding with a corpse in the house," he 



said. He requested me to speak the funeral address 
for Abraham at the meeting of the Vienna Psycho- 
analytical Society. Freud himself was present, of 
course, but because of his illness he refrained from 
speaking. After I had given the address he pressed 
my hand silently, but on the way home he com- 
mended me for mentioning not only the virtues of 
our friend, but his faults also.^'That is just the way 
I would have done it, Reik," he said. "The proverb, 
De mortuis nil nisi bonum, is, I think, nothing but 
a relic of our primitive fear of the dead) We psy- 
choanalysts must throw such conventions over- 
board. Trust the others to remain hypocrites even 
before the coffin." And to illustrate his remarks, he 
told me one of those Jewish jokes which so unmer- 
cifully expose the psychic motives of our exag- 
gerated eulogies of the dead. 

No, let us have no legends woven around Freijd. 
He was human, with human weaknesses, arid fve 
loved him even for these. His character was rooted 
in that black earth out of which all of us grow. But 
most trees remain small or of middling height, and 
only the rare ones grow from their underground 
roots to such astonishing heights. 

His human weaknesses, or his human qualities, 
manifested themselves in little traits left over from 
his earlier development. They were never conspicu- 
ous. He was capable of much love, but he was also 
a good hater. He tried to suppress his desires to 
avenge injustices he had received; but often they 



broke forth in a word, a gesture or an intonation. 
In old age, despite his self-control, more than one 
bitter word broke through the bars. "Men are a wolf 
pack," he could say at such times, "just a wolf pack. 
They bunt down those who would do good for 
them." Such remarks always startled us. But at such 
times he always spoke without strong emotion; 
these remarks sounded quite matter-of-course, like 
a final, calm judgment. Once — and only once — I saw 
him terribly angry. But the only sign of this anger 
was a sudden pallor and the way his teeth bit into 
his cigar. He could utter curses and vituperation as 
well as any one of us, but he preferred not to. Once, 
when I was railing against a certain professor of 
psychiatry for his shabby conduct, Freud merely 
smiled. He nodded in agreement when I used an ex- 
pression that implied the man came from no human 
ancestry; but he restrained his own anger. I once 
asked him how he had endured the hostility of a 
whole world for so many years without becoming 
enraged or embittered. (He answered, "I preferred\ 
to let time decide in my favor." And he added, "Be- 1 
sides, it would have pleased my enemies if I had/ 
shown that I was hurt." 

Let us not deceive ourselves. He was not insen- 
sitive to neglect or slights. It hurt him that he had 
not yet received official recognition in Vienna itself, 
at a time when the whole world already honored him. 
But he would never air his feelings except in a cas- 
ual joke. Once a Vienna tax collector challenged his 



income tax statement and pointed out that Freud's 
fame was spread far beyond the borders of Austria. 
Freud wrote in reply, "But it does not begin until 
the border." 

He was not vindictive, but he did not forget in- 
juries. For many years he kept away from the Vien- 
nese Medical Society, the members of which had 
once jeered at him when he lectured before them 
on the psychic genesis of hysteria. He once asked 
me to look up something in a magazine. I found that 
the volume containing this magazine could be ob- 
tained only from the Medical Society, and since I 
needed a letter of recommendation in order to use 
their library I asked him for one. He promised to 
write it for me, but forgot, which was very unusual 
with him. I reminded him, but he forgot again. 
Finally he confessed, "I couldn't bring myself to 
do it. My resistance was too strong." 

He once said to me that character was deter- 
mined essentially by the prevalence of one instinc- 
tual impulse over others. In his personality, the par- 
ticular impulse which would incline a man toward 
being a healer was not nearly so strongly developed 
as his impulse to knowledge. He had nothing of the 
furor therapeuticus that so many doctors manifest. 
He repeatedly said to us that three tasks were "im- 
possible" — to govern, to educate, and to heal. By 
this he inferred that these actions are wholly in the 
ideal domain. As a matter of fact, he was not over- 
happy about becoming a physician. But the desire 



to contribute some vital addition to mankind's vol- 
ume of knowledge awakened early in him; this de- 
sire was already clearly defined when he was still in 
the gymnasium. 

His capacity for self-control was extraordi- 
nary. He once said that we are indebted for our 
greatest cultural achievements to great personali- 
ties, those with powerful impulses who had the gift 
of curbing them and turning them to serve higher 
ends. In his excellent essay on the "Moses" of Mi- 
chelangelo he has shown us an example — or rather 
an ideal' — of such an instinct-ridden genius who 
tamed his raging emotions. 

He invariably expressed impatience or irritation 
by twisting these emotions into a wry joke. It must 
have been in one such moment of annoyance with us 
followers, with our rivalries and petty quarrels, that 
he cried, "Oh, if all of them had but a single back- 
side!" With this parody of Nero's cruel sentiment 
he diverted his own anger. 

Experience bears out that there is a kind of 
functional relationship between literary and oratori- 
cal gifts. Master stylists are seldom good speakers ; 
ability to express oneself in the one form seems to 
hamper expression in the other. Freud was a mas- 
terful stylist. His prose, with its lucid, tranquil, 
richly associative flow, merits comparison with that 
of the great writers. Freud revised the well-known 



maxim to, "Style est I'histoire de I'homme" By that 
maxim he did not mean merely that literary influ- 
ences fashioned the style of the individual, but that 
the development and experiences of an individual do 
their part in molding his style. 

Certainly, he was not a powerful orator; and, in 
fact, he disliked speaking. He always had to over- 
come a certain resistance before delivering a lecture. 
His speaking manner had nothing of the demagogic 
about it, nothing of the impulsive or the emotionally 
winning. In its sobriety and lucidity, its slow, logical 
development, and its anticipations of objections, it 
had none of the qualities which sway the masses. On 
the other hand, it possessed all the qualities which 
convince unprejudiced, sympathetic, thoughtful lis- 
teners. There was something curiously compelling 
about the very uncoercive manner of his speech. His 
lectures at congresses and scientific meetings could 
not be called lectures in the rigid academic sense; 
rather, they were free accounts of his experiences 
and researches. Their manner was conversational 
instead of formal. He once wrote to me that when 
he lectured he chose one sympathetic person from 
among his audience and imagined that he was ad- 
dressing this person alone. If this person was absent 
from among his listeners, he would not feel at ease 
until he had found someone to understudy, so to 
speak. This attitude explains the direct-address form 
of his lectures and the manner in which he antici- 
pated objections, formulating the doubts and ques- 



tions of his audience as though he could read their 
minds. This direct approach is carried over into his 
General Introduction to Psychoanalysis where it 
can be easily detected. 

He always spoke extemporaneously; he pre- 
pared for a lecture simply by taking a long walk 
during which he reflected on his subject. He never 
liked us, his assistants and disciples, to read our 
lectures from manuscript. He believed that the read- 
ing distracted the attention of the listener and han- 
dicapped his identifying himself with the lecturer. 
He thought this capacity for identification would be 
encouraged if the lecturer spoke freely, developing 
the train of his ideas as they came to him at the 
moment. This would be true even though he had 
often reviewed these ideas in his mind, for in speak- 
ing he would be re-creating them. This kind of lec- 
turing was particularly easy for Freud because of 
his astonishing memory, a memory which in his ear- 
lier years was almost photographic. 

The impression left by one of Freud's lectures 
grew with the passage of time, deepened in retro- 
spect. A born orator makes a quite different impres- 
sion — his speech has an immediate, powerful effect, 
but does not create any lasting impression. All who 
have heard Freud lecture will testify that it was an 
intellectual pleasure of a high order. 

Simple and clear at the outset, his lectures made 
rapid headway into presentation and analysis of a 
complicated psychic situation. Freud never shunned 


any difficulty. He never tried to present a completed, 
flawless system ; he unhesitatingly admitted that he 
could not, or could not yet, solve a problem and 
would then point out the path of future research. 
He was both cautious and audacious in his formu- 
lations, faithful to fundamental criteria even though 
these criteria might seem faulty at first glance, and 
altering his criteria if new facts opposed themselves 
to the old. He tried to lead his listeners to draw their 
own conclusions from the psychological material 
available. Freud assisted them by presenting and 
discussing every aspect of the material. His pro- 
cedure, to approach the final conclusion step by 
step, to expose all that was dubious, and to avoid 
all circumlocution and distortion, inevitably exer- 
cised an impressive and convincing effect upon his 

Sometimes, however, he would begin his lecture 
with an assertion that seemed patently improbable, 
and then he would so support this assertion by the 
citing of a number of cases that no attentive and 
just listener could disagree with him. I remember 
once that he made just such a statement, which 
sounded starkly unbelievable, and then went on to 
admonish his listeners not to reject it prematurely 
as paradoxical or impossible. "Do you remember," 
he said, "how in Shakespeare's play, when the ghost 
of the king cries 'Swear!' from within the earth, 
Horatio cries out, 'O day and night, but this is won- 
drous strange !' But Hamlet replies, 'And therefore 



as a stranger give it welcome. 1 So I too shall ask 
you first to give welcome to the things that here rise 
so strangely from the tomb of the past." 

He lectured in a measured, firm, and pleasant 
voice, although in later years he was often forced 
by his illness to break off suddenly to clear his 
throat. His language was unadorned; he rarely 
used adjectives, preferring understatement; the rich 
current of thought flowed along without any marked 
rise and fall of his voice. I never heard him become 
sentimental or emotional. He had so strong a desire 
for clarity that he could not help making everything 
clear to his listeners, and where he could not, he 
would frankly point out the obscurities of the prob- 
lem. In order to make his points clear and concrete 
he was fond of adducing analogies from everyday 
life. In a lecture given in 191 5, where he was dis- 
cussing the place of onanism in childhood and in the 
life of the adult, he first waived all moral evalua- 
tions of this sexual activity and insisted on consid- 
ering the problem only from the standpoint of pur- 
pose. He drew the following analogy: "Bow and 
arrow were once, in prehistoric times, man's only 
weapon, or at any rate his best weapon. But what 
would you say if a French soldier of today went into 
battle with bow and arrow instead of a rifle?" 

In the discussions which followed lectures of 
the Psychoanalytic Society he usually was the last 
to speak. He rarely failed to find a friendly word 
for the analyst who had lectured, but he also freely 



offered criticism which was always suaviter in mo- 
do, fortiter in re. I remember a lecture by a young 
colleague which, instead of being an examination 
of the problem, presented merely pretentious plans 
for the treatment of scientific questions. During the 
lecture Freud, who sat next to me, slipped me a sheet 
of paper on which he had written, "Does reading 
menus fill your stomach ?" 

In the midst of a serious discussion he would 
often surprise us with a humorous remark. In a lec- 
ture before the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society the 
New York analyst, Dr. Feigenbaum, once showed 
that even the speaking of intentional nonsense, 
which often happens in card playing, for example, 
can by analytic study be shown to convey uncon- 
scious rhyme and reason. Freud remarked that 
though it is no easy task for men to produce delib- 
erately absolute nonsense, still everyone knows that 
the books of German scholars are full of effortless 
and unconscious nonsense. 

After a lecture he gave (sometime in 19 10) on 
the problem of sex, there was raised in the course 
of the discussion the question of a practical solu- 
tion for the sexual dilemma of young students. For, 
on the one hand, psychoanalysis bad shown that sex- 
ual abstinence was one of the most important fac- 
tors in the formation of neurosis. On the other hand, 
the economic circumstances of most students made 
it impossible for them to marry early. Morality for- 
bade the seduction of young girls, the danger of in- 



fection made sexual intercourse with prostitutes in- 
advisable, and so on, Freud's advice to the young 
students was, "Be abstinent, but under protest." He 
felt that it was imperative to keep alive the inner 
protest against a social order which prevented ma- 
ture young men from fulfilling a normal instinctual 
need. He drew parallels between this attitude and 
that of the French Encyclopedists of the eighteenth 
century who, though submissive outwardly to the 
power of the Church which ruled their age, dedi- 
cated themselves to tireless protest against its over- 
whelming and unbearable force. Like Anatole 
France * whose writings he loved, Freud did not 
believe in sudden and violent revolutions; he put 
more faith in the steadily mounting, continuous 
force of patient resistance to bring about ultimately 
changes in the social order. He believed, also, that 
psychoanalysis, by making men more straightfor- 
ward and upright, was one of these reforming 
forces. He often reiterated that in regard to money 
and to sex men are hypocrites. In both these realms 
they refuse to confess their true needs. 

* He cherished not only the lofty wisdom of this writer, but 
the subtlety and wit of his art. I remember Freud laughing 
aloud when — to illustrate how extreme feminine sensitivity could 
be — I reminded him of a remark in a novel of Anatole France. 
In Monsieur Bergeret & Paris a young man attempts to seduce 
a lady. Anatole France, the connoisseur of women, concludes 
his description as follows: "He came to her again, took her in 
his arms, and covered her with caresses. Within a short time her 
clothes were so disarranged that — aside from any other consid- 
erations — shame alone compelled her to disrobe." 



He was convinced that an individual's sexual 
behavior provided the symbol and prototype of his 
attitude toward other aspects of life. Once, while 
we were discussing a case of neurosis, he related an 
example he had met with outside his practice. This 
example was memorable because it involved two 
famous contemporaries. The mathematician and 
physicist, Christian Doppler, of the University of 
Vienna, had early done remarkable scientific work; 
it was he who made the discovery now known 
throughout the world as Doppler's principle. Later 
his scientific creativeness ran dry, or ran aground ; 
his work became trivial; much of the time he busied 
himself working out riddles and was unable to pub- 
lish anything of scientific significance. Freud traced 
this striking development to the fact that, though 
Doppler's marriage was extremely unhappy, for 
"moral" reasons he could not attain the inner free- 
dom to seek a divorce. The psychic conflict arose 
out of Doppler's acquaintance with a young girl 
toward whom he was strongly attracted ; but he had 
decided to resign himself and continue his life at the 
side of an unloved wife. 

Freud contrasted this attitude with that of 
Doppler's contemporary, Robert Koch. Koch, who 
was at first a young health officer in a small German 
city, had won considerable fame with the publica- 
tion of his first scientific papers. He had made a 
good middle-class marriage with a woman whom he 
respected but did not love. Later he met a girt whom 



he truly loved and Koch resolved to have a frank 
and friendly discussion with his wife. He requested 
divorce, and she finally consented. He married the 
girl, who proved to be a courageous and understand- 
ing companion through life. Happy and fulfilled in 
marriage, he pursued a scientific career that grew 
steadily in importance; he made great discoveries 
in regard to tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, and ma- 
laria, and contributed to medicine those theories and 
methods which will forever be associated with his 
name. Freud respected Koch's behavior in the psy- 
chic crisis of his first marriage as a sign of greater 
strength of character. More than that, he felt that it 
sprang from a higher morality than Doppler's, a 
morality whose values were honesty and courage. 

I was constantly amazed anew at the extent of 
Freud's reading and the diversity of his knowledge. 
He read in almost every branch of science. He fol- 
lowed with great interest the progress of medical 
and biologic research, and read widely in archeology 
and history, keeping up with current developments 
in all these fields. Until almost the last he was a 
tireless reader. It was a thing of wonder to me how 
a man whose days were crammed with so many 
hours of exhausting analytic work, and whose 
nights were largely devoted to writing, could find 
the time for such extensive reading. Nor was this 
reading in the field of science alone. He loved biog- 
raphy and the best work of contemporary writers 



like Romain Rolland, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz 
Werfel, and Stefan Zweig. 

I remember once talking with him about a 
drama of Stefan Zweig' s, Jeremiah, which had just 
appeared. I expressed the opinion that a drama mak- 
ing use of related material, Der Junge David by 
Richard Beer-Hofmann, was far superior to Zweig's 
work. Compared to Beer-Hofmann's work, I said, 
the Zweig drama was very feeble. Freud was sur- 
prised at this criticism.! He told me that such an at- 
titude was altogether strange to him, for he never 
,drew comparisons in matters of aesthetic pleasure. 
(As a matter of fact, I believe that this is an atti- 
tude he adopted later in life.) 

For analogies in his scientific work he usually 
called upon physics, for that science deals with the 
interplay of forces; but he also drew comparisons 
with chemistry and biology, and with archeology, 
which was particularly interesting to him. Let me 
recall a comparison he used when we were dis- 
cussing the function of trauma in the structure 
of the neuroses. Freud made mention of the theo- 
ries of Charles Lyell and George Cuvier, the great 
geologists. He disagreed with Cuvier's theory of 
cataclysms, which held that changes in the sur- 
face of the earth are wrought by great catas- 
trophies. He inclined to Lyell's theory that such 
changes are produced by constant forces working 
imperceptibly over periods of thousands of years. 
I remember another time that he drew an analogy 



from geology. We were discussing how in psy- 
choanalysis only the psychic reality holds sway, 
while the material reality is altogether minor — so 
that, for example, it does not matter whether a 
patient really dreamed a dream or only imagined 
it. From this we went on to discuss the psychic 
significance of the lie, particularly the lie in chil- 
dren. Freud pointed out that children's lies are 
frequently composed for an imaginary gratifica- 
tion of desire. From this point of view it is psy- 
chologically unimportant whether we are dealing 
with lie or truth, since the boundary between them 
— in analysis, though not in life — is vague and shift- 
ing. He added : "Imagine that the human eye could 
behold at one glance all the changes that have taken 
place over eons in the surface of the earth. To such 
a vision the boundaries between hill and valley, 
water and land, would become vague and strangely 


Until ripe old age Freud was receptive to all 
new ideas and original thought in psychoanalysis. 
He met them without prejudice, even when he did 
not agree; but he required a long time to feel at 
home in new views. Although he always evinced a 
lively and open-minded interest in all intellectual 
changes, he left it to the younger generation to ex- 
tend psychoanalysis beyond the specific limitations 
that he had set himself. 

He impressed upon us that it was almost always 



a bad omen when a neurotic patient accepted with 
enthusiasm the results of analysis. The best attitude 
toward analysis or any other new and radical sci- 
entific views was, he maintained, a friendly skepti- 
cism. Consider, he would say, the way housewives 
tell a good oven from a bad one. The bad ones are 
those that heat up right away, but also cool rapidly ; 
the good ones, however, grow warm slowly and hes- 
itantly, but hold their heat for a long time. 

This was his own attitude toward innovations 
in psychoanalysis; in his later years he usually 
avoided expressing an opinion on newly published 
analytic works. He needed a long time for a well- 
considered verdict. He was tolerant enough to ap- 
preciate others' efforts in analysis along paths that 
did not interest him, although he himself would 
never venture out upon such paths. After a lecture 
by one of our colleagues on broad problems of char- 
acter neurosis, he remarked that he had limited him- 
self to narrower aspects of the subject, but that the 
new generation would wish to explore more remote 
regions. "I myself have always sailed upon inland 
lakes. But good for them who are striking out into 
the open sea." 

Whence comes the view so prevalent in Amer- 
ica that Freud was dogmatic? Throughout thirty 
years I never noticed a single trait of narrow-mind- 
edness or dogmatism in him. In this book I have 
included a letter of his (his reply to my criticism of 
his Dostoyevsky essay) which testifies that he was 



critical of his own work and freely admitted weak- 
nesses where they existed. He was intolerant only 
towards false tolerance. He insisted that psycho- 
analysis, as a science, should adhere to its own meth- 
ods, and he tried to keep it free of the methods of 
other sciences. 


Occasionally he was pessimistic about the fu- 
ture of psychoanalysis. I am told he once said that 
analysis would suffer a lingering death after his 
own death. Such a moody remark was certainly only 
the reflection of momentary bad humor. In later 
years he was always confident and optimistic; he 
knew that the science he had created would not dis- 
appear. He knew also that that science would under- 
go modifications and corrections, would be supple- 
mented and considered from new angles. But what 
Freud mined from the profoundest depths and 
abysses of the psyche will endure and his work will 
continue with ever more fruitful influence upon the 
life of individuals and of nations. Above all, his 
method of research will endure ; that method which 
accords such critical attention to apparent triviali- 
ties, the method whose objects are the inconspicuous, 
the hidden, and the veiled. 

A small circle of those who were his followers 
will teach the new generation. He knew that after 
a short period of lying fallow and of being overrun 
by confusion, disturbance, and obscurantism, psy- 
choanalysis would come into its own in the lives of 



civilized peoples. In his last book he saw a great 
vision of the fate of Moses and his mission, a fate 
that may well be his own. Does he not prophesy the 
great work of his little circle? He recounts the tale 
of the Levites, who stood fast in all perils, defying 
all the forces that opposed them to save the intel- 
lectual heritage of a genius for the millenniums to 
come. Is this not an outline of the task of his little 
group of followers? Freud's death does not mean 
the beginning of the end of psychoanalysis, as his 
foes aver, but rather the end of the beginning. 

None of us has the power to say what the fu- 
ture will bring to our young science. What will be 
its fate in the midst of the dreadful war that is dev- 
astating Europe? Probably it will maintain utter 
silence in Europe for a time. Probably it will have 
to emigrate as so many research-workers have done. 
The position of science will be bad enough even if 
England should win; disastrous if Nazism is victori- 
ous. In the light of this, America can become the 
sanctuary of psychoanalysis. America can be the 
future capital of the new psychology — if America 

In these pages I mean to show Freud in his 
work, his conversation and his life ; not as a statue 
in a Hall of Fame, but as a man. In these memoirs 
he speaks as he spoke when I first saw him and when 
I last saw him, as he spoke when he lectured. I see 
him still as he sat in the midst of our little circle of 
Viennese analysts, listening attentively while I dis- 



cussed his Future of an Illusion. I can still hear his 
clear, calm voice as he praised and criticized my dis- 
cussion. Here he came to our aid not only in our 
scientific problems, but in our personal, human pur- 

In these pages I have tried to set forth what he 
meant to us Viennese analysts as a teacher — which 
is to say, as an exemplar. I have reproduced some 
of his remarks and cited some of his letters, which 
even in a few lines convey the vivid image of his 
personality. I do not presume to think that I have 
given here a picture of his whole personality; only 
enough single impressions to make it clear how I 
see and how I saw him. 

Frequently I can still recall to mind the very 
timbre of his voice ; I can still see the expression in 
his eyes. But how communicate such impressions? 
And how much harder it is to tell what the man 
meant to us all for more than a quarter of a cen- 
tury. I shall be content if I succeed in showing 
merely a glimpse of his wisdom, his wit, his intel- 
lectual sincerity, his courage in the pursuit of truth, 
his profound human understanding, and his kindli- 

The deepest and final memory he left with us 
is the memory of his utter sincerity. He dared to 
pursue to the end thoughts which some few had en- 
countered, but at which most men had turned and 
run — thoughts on sex and the sexes, on life, love, 
and death, and on the powerful instincts that live 



beneath the pitiable artifices we invent to conceal 
them from ourselves and others. He faced the psy- 
chic processes in himself and others without fear 
and favor. He was more courageous than his time. 
And these qualities — talent, utter honesty, and the 
ability to consummate his thoughts — seem to me the 
qualities with which are endowed those rare human 
beings whom we call geniuses. 



Nearly thirty years had passed since, with pound- 
ing heart, I first ascended the steps of Number 
i g Berggasse and stood face to face with Freud. At 
the time I was a student of psychology at the Uni- 
versity of Vienna. About a half year previously our 
fine old professor, Friedrich Jodl, had for the first 
and last time mentioned Sigmund Freud's name in 
his lectures. Research into the psyche at the time 
was completely under the aegis of experimental psy- 
chology. When we thought of psychic processes, we 
thought of them in terms of laboratory work, tests, 
experiments with stimuli and blood pressure. 

Professor Jodl had been lecturing to us for 
weeks on Wundt's laws of association. At the close 
of his lecture he mentioned offhandedly, with a keen 
ironic smile, that there was one instructor in our 
city who asserted that there was a type of forgetting 
that did not follow Wundt's laws, but the laws of a 
psychic process he called repression. We students 
also smiled ironically, for like our professor we were 
confident of our knowledge of the human psyche. 

Some time later a book by this instructor fell 
into my hands. It bore the title, The Interpretation 

[2 5 ] 


of Dreams. I began to read, but soon laid the book 
aside. It seemed altogether preposterous — was I not 
a student of Wundtian psychology? But a few days 
later I took it up again — I had left it lying on my 
desk next to Ziehen's textbook of psychology — and 
this time I read on and on, fascinated, to the last 
line. In the following weeks with growing wonder 
I read everything this author had published. Here 
was the psychology that had been sought so long, a 
science of the psychic underworld. Here was what 
I had looked for when I first took up the study of 
psychology in spite of all the warnings of practical 
people. Here was something derived not from psy- 
chology textbooks but from the premonitions and 
visions of Goethe, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Scho- 
penhauer, and Nietzsche. 

Some months later I stood for the first time in 
the room where Freud worked, stood by his desk, 
surrounded by Egyptian and Etruscan figurines — 
excavated trophies of a long-dead world. 

In the following years scarcely a week passed 
that I did not see him. The lectures in the old psy- 
chiatry clinic in the Lazarettgasse, the discussions 
of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and, later on, 
the Wednesday evenings at his home (for he was 
then already ill and received only his closest co- 
workers on these occasions — "From time to time I 
like to see the young ones," he said, quoting Goethe) 
— these are un forgotten and unforgettable times. 

One who was not close to Freud cannot con- 


ceive of the stature of the man, for he himself was 
greater than his work, that work which embodies 
the profoundest insights into the psychic life of man 
that have yet been attained. Many, throughout the 
whole wide world, know how kindly, helpful, and 
loyal he was. I can still see his smile as he appeared 
unexpectedly one day in our apartment in Berlin, 
after toiling up four flights of stairs. It was in 191 5, 
I had just married and was poor as only a Doctor 
of Philosophy can be. Freud brought the news that 
the Psychoanalytic Society had decided to award me 
the prize for the best scientific work in the field of 
applied psychoanalysis. It was like a fairy tale, and 
the most miraculous feature of it was Freud's smile. 
Clearly, it made him happy to hand me the sum of 
money, which was not large but to me in my cir- 
cumstances at the time seemed like a fortune. 

Only those few who were close to him were 
privileged to enjoy the beauty of his conversation, 
the profundity of his explanations, his quick wit, 
and his somewhat shy humor. None of us who were 
his disciples and colleagues went from him unre- 
warded; he extended to us all suggestions and a 
stimulus whose effect was lasting. In retrospect, 
words he had spoken in everyday conversation ac- 
quired undreamed-of significance; casual remarks 
echoed in our minds for years afterwards. There 
were no psychic secrets that were closed to his bril- 
liant insight. 

Shortly before Hitler's invasion of our Austria 



I saw him for the last time; this was after an inter- 
val of a year which I spent in Holland. I still, at 
fifty, felt as I rang the bell the joyful expectation 
that had surcharged me as a boy of twenty. A con- 
versation with Freud was always an experience. 

I found him greatly changed, his skin withered 
and his eyes deep-sunken. His hands, as he opened 
a cigar case, seemed no more than skin and bones. 
But his eyes, his curious and penetrating eyes, were 
as lively and kindly as always. In conversation he 
showed all his old eager interest ; every sentence he 
spoke was characteristically his. We talked of the 
problems of our science, and it seemed to me that 
the wisdom of old age in this man had revealed to 
him mysteries whose existence I had not even sus- 
pected. After a long discussion of psychoanalytic 
problems, our conversation turned to questions of 
the day. Freud realized how precarious was the sit- 
uation of Austria, and he was very doubtful that 
she could maintain herself. He felt no fear for him- 
self, but he foresaw a dark future. 

Only a few of his remarks shall be recorded 
here. He knew that psychoanalysis might well suf- 
fer seeming defeat for a long time. But then its ef- 
fect would be profounder than ever. He was not 
surprised by the brutality and blind instinctual 
cruelty of the Nazi regime. It seemed as though he 
had anticipated it and was armed to meet it. What 
surprised him, however, was the intellectual atti- 
tude of the majority of Germans, whom he had 



thought more intelligent and capable of better judg- 
ment. While we were speaking of race prejudice, 
he said smilingly, "Look how impoverished the 
poet's imagination really is. Shakespeare, in A 
Midsummer Night's Dream, has a woman fall in 
love with a donkey. The audience wonders at that. 
And now, think of it, that a nation of sixty-five mil- 
lions have . . ." He completed the sentence with a 
wave of his hand. 

We spoke of the Jews and their destiny. (At 
the time he was still working on the manuscript of 
the Moses book.) He was not downcast. "Our ene- 
mies wish to destroy us. But they will only succeed 
in dispersing us through the world." Although 
averse to nationalistic prejudices, he loved his peo- 
ple and he did not believe that this persecution 
would break their will to live. When I commented 
on the tragedy of Jewish destiny, he replied with a 
smile, "The ways of the Lord are dark, but seldom 

While on this subject, I should like to record 
Freud's reply when a London weekly requested him 
to express his opinion, to be published in a sympo- 
sium, on the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Freud 
refused, citing a French proverb: 

"Le bruit est pour le fat, 
Le plaitite est pour le sot; 
L'homiete homme trompe 
S J en va et ne dit mot." 



He did not show much surprise at the outbreak 
of hatred for the Jews. When he learned that in 
Berlin his books, together with those of Heine, 
Schnitzler, Wassermann, and so many others, had 
been solemnly consigned to perdition and burned, 
he said calmly, "At least I burn in the best of com- 

A journalist reported in The New York Times 
Freud's comment on his own fate at this time. 
" 'They told me,' he said, 'that psychoanalysis is 
alien to their Weltanschauung, and I suppose it is.' 
He said this with no emotion and little interest, as 
though lie were talking about the affairs of some 
complete stranger." 

It is well known that he was not indifferent to 
the fate of his own people. He hailed the reconstruc- 
tion going on in Palestine and wrote to the Jewish 
organization, Keren Hajazoth, on June 20, 1925, 
"It is a sign of our invincible will to live which for 
two thousand years has survived the worst persecu- 
tions. Our youth will carry on the fight." 

If I here describe some more personal moments 
of this last conversation, I do so only to show how 
charmingly and spiritedly the octogenarian ex- 
pressed himself. I want to give some hint of the 
graciousness of his mind and the modesty and kind- 
liness of his character. We were speaking of my 
latest book. He praised it in words that I still cherish 



in my memory. He freely criticized some of my 
ironic judgments of the ideas of certain colleagues. 
Later on I explained, "I don't care much what my 
colleagues think of my books. For me your opinion 
is the vital one. Only what you say to me is impor- 
tant." "You are very wrong, Reik," he answered. 
"You must regard your colleagues' opinions of your 
work. I am no longer important, I am already an 
outsider — I no longer belong . . . You know," he 
added after a short pause, "your position is so un- 
reasonable. You remind me of the hero of a fairy 
tale I once read— where was it? 

"A barber in the Orient, let us say Bagdad, often 
heard his customers talking of a beautiful princess 
in a far-away land who was held captive by a wicked 
wizard. The brave man who would free the princess 
was promised both her hand and a great kingdom. 
Many knights and princes had set out upon the ad- 
venture, but none had succeeded in reaching her. 
Before the castle in which the beautiful lady was 
imprisoned there lay a vast, gloomy wood. Whoever 
crossed this wood would be attacked by lions and 
torn to pieces. The few who succeeded in escaping 
these lions were later met by two terrible giants who 
beat them down with cudgels. Some few had escaped 
even this danger and after years of travail had 
reached the castle. As they rushed up the stairway, 
the wizard's magic caused it to collapse. It was said 
that one brave prince had nevertheless managed to 
ascend into the castle, but in the great hall where 



the princess was enthroned a fierce fire raged which 
destroyed him. 

"The adventurous barber was so deeply im- 
pressed by these tales of the beautiful princess that 
by and by he sold his shop and set out to liberate 
her. He had singular good fortune ; he escaped the 
wild beasts, overcame the giants, and survived many 
other adventures, until at last he reached the castle. 
He strode over the stairway, although it toppled 
beneath him, and plunged intrepidly through the 
roaring flames that were threatening to consume the 
hall. At the end of the great hall he could dimly see 
the princess. But as he rushed across the room and 
drew near the figure, he saw a gray old woman sup- 
porting herself on a cane as she sat, her face full of 
wrinkles and warts, her hair drawn back in sparse, 
snow-white strands. The brave barber had forgot- 
ten that the princess had been waiting sixty years 
for her deliverer . . . No, my dear Reik, you are 
wrong in setting such store on me and my opinion. 
You must listen to what the colleagues say about 
your work." 

That was Sigmund Freud's way. We shall hear 
it no more. 



although our colleagues in psychology now rec- 
A ognize Freud's importance — with reservations 
— the terra Freud students still has for them the 
overtone of a derogatory epithet. In fact, queerly 
enough, the recognition of Freud has helped dis- 
credit the followers. Freud student — the name con- 
notes a singular compound of fanaticism and ex- 
travagance, idiosyncrasy and inanity. Where Freud 
is cautious, his followers are bold; where his views 
are trenchant and meaningful, theirs are abstruse 
and worthless. 

Now, it has certainly never occurred to any 
one of Freud's students to put himself on the same 
plane as the master. But it is also highly improbable 
that just this particular teacher should be cursed 
with a group of collaborators who are all either 
visionaries or intellectual mediocrities. And why, 
when this or that follower later breaks with the 
views of the master, should he suddenly be spared 
the former harsh judgments? How is it that a man 
who was once a Freud student and is one no longer 
suddenly receives a kinder judgment from the 
critics? When the insurgent still grants Freud's 



importance, but naturally also mentions his limita- 
tions ; when he says that this portion of Freud's 
doctrines is exaggerated, that part is based on er- 
ror or a narrow conception of the human psyche; 
that this idea of his is more ingenious than accurate, 
or that claim contradicts clinical experience — when 
he says all these things, has he thereby become clev- 
erer and more discerning? 

One does not have to be an analyst to under- 
stand that this condemnation of Freud followers is 
prompted by unconfessed or unconscious affects ; 
and one needs no especial keenness to recognize the 
nature of these affects. We have plenty of experi- 
ence with similar tactics in everyday life. We all 
know that a man and his wife, when they quarrel, 
will disparage each other's friends and relatives, all 
the while leaving each other strictly out of the pic- 
ture. The infallible effectiveness of these taunts 
proves that each knows the meaning behind them. 
It is wise not to trust the apparent peacefulness of 
married life so long as that particular tone is 
used for saying, "Your mother . . ." or "Your 
friends . . ." 

It seems to us that the admiration and recog- 
nition Freud has received is not meant honestly so 
long as his co-workers and followers are disdain- 
fully dismissed. Can Freud be a genius, his work 
be of permanent value, and the psychoanalysis he 
created be a revolutionary scientific achievement, 
when at the same time his collaborator's books are 



unreliable and far-fetched? We could understand 
that a genius might tolerate the company of medi- 
ocre or stupid adherents. But how then can we ex- 
plain why so keen a mind quotes in his own works 
from many of his followers and repeatedly demon- 
strates his high respect for the efforts of his suc- 
cessful co-workers? How is it he concedes that this 
student's work has been an important contribution 
to the solution of a problem, or that another's ex- 
periment represents a scientific advance? We can- 
not help feeling that all this loud emphasis on the 
difference between master and student, which pre- 
viously no one thought to deny, betrays a hidden in- 
tention. And that intention is exposed when we ob- 
serve thatrthe same adjectives are now applied td* 
the work of the followers which were formerly used 
to malign the master's work. f 

Moreover, we see the secondary motive behind 
these remarkable compliments to Freud. Psycho- 
analysis is made to appear not as an objectively de- 
monstrable science, but rather as some ingenious 
system of one individual. If this is accepted, then 
it can never be more than the achievement of this 
one man. 

This touches us at a sore point; we cannot deny 
it. Nor do we wish to. Our personal interest, how- 
ever, does not prevent us from being objective. Even 
if we had not made the cause of psychoanalysis our 
own, we would still object to the conception of it as 
a limited, individual achievement. 



But we have made it our own. We pledged our- 
selves to it when it was still unpleasant and ill-ad- 
vised to do so. We protected it in its development 
both from its enemies and from its friends — which 
last was often far more difficult. Certainly we de- 
serve no praise for that; it was an inner necessity, 
at once our duty and our glory. 

Not so long ago psychoanalysts were called a 
sect. Even today they are reproached for their faith 
in authority, for the narrow-mindedness and dog- 
matism with which they follow their teacher through 
thick and thin. But we have not been blinded by 
'"loyalty to any error or omission.(Our love for the 
man and our admiration for his achievements have 
not precluded our criticism of details. They have 
simply made it impossible for us to offer this criti- 
cism irreverently. 

The term Freud student has often implied an 
impatient and unteachable attitude in psychology. 
Yet certain critics will have it that those very stu- 
dents of Freud who have extended his views until 
they became bizarre and ludicrous, and have dis- 
torted them until they were unrecognizable, are no 
more than abject echoes of their teacher, that their 
books are nothing but tiresome repetition of his 
ideas. But, on the other hand, his oft- reproached 
students are allegedly also slavish copies of the 



original. Alas, it has pleased God to create a world 
full of contradictions! 

The critics advance an explanation for this lack 
of intellectual independence, this complete absence 
of originality among Freud's followers. They say 
this comes from their identification with the master. 
Those who say this feel that their statement is pro- 
foundly enlightening and definitive. They speak as 
though it were something amazingly new and un- 
known that the assistants at a clinic identify them- 
selves with the professor. 

Of course a student identifies himself with his 
teacher. We are tempted to ask: what else should 
he do with him? But the essence of the process of 
identification is by no means as simple as it seems 
to the layman — and under that heading I include 
those critics who so lightly bandy about psychoana- 
lytic concepts. It must be remembered that there are 
various kinds of identification. Further, we are deal- 
ing with an organic process which is nearly inde- 
pendent of the conscious will. The process is not 
governed by tender emotions alone. Antagonistic 
and rebellious tendencies are also determining fac- 
tors in the establishment of identification. All iden- 
tification is partial, and the manner and direction in 
which an individual identifies himself with another 
serves to characterize him. It is significant, too, in 
what stages of the individual's development such a 
process takes place. Both the instinctual endowment 
and the experiences of a person have a decisive ef- 



feet upon the manner and extent of identification. 
Finally, the person with whom one identifies one- 
self is certainly not chosen at random. Certain psy- 
chic predispositions are operating; it is a question 
not only of whether the psyche demands such iden- 
tification, but whether it can attain it. 

We know that psychoanalysis cannot be 
learned out of books. Here, more than in other 
fields, it is profoundly true that understanding must 
be hard- won if it is to be possessed. 

"Was Du ererbt von deinen V'dtem hast, 
Erwirb es, um es zu besitsen." 

"What from your father's heritage is lent, 
Earn it anew to really possess it." 

We perceived psychic relationships gradually. 
Indeed, we must always exercise delicate insight 
into the play of forces which oppose such percep- 
tion. We acquired understanding slowly and with 
difficulty, and as we penetrated into the deeper levels 
of the psyche we met with increasing resistance. 
This process made for a kind of common destiny 
with our teacher, since the things we know and the 
manner in which we come to know them are a re- 
enactment of his labors, a sharing of his destiny. 
While making allowances for all reservations and 
differences, it is still true, as Goethe puts it, that 
"you resemble the spirit you comprehend." What 
is important is the depth and constancy of this com- 



The best, and for the future analyst the sole 
way to understand depth psychology is by experi- 
encing it. Psychoanalysis is an organic process 
which, once it has gained a certain headway, may 
not be voluntarily interrupted. As we seem to grow 
more detached from our own psychoanalytic experi- 
encej our knowledge of this process deepens. We 
gain in understanding as we examine a period of 
our own life and learn its psychic foundations and 
hidden aims. We continue to reach back into our- 
selves, even long after we have abandoned our own 
analysis. For this analytic process which led to self- 
knowledge is not abruptly halted with the comple- 
tion of analytic treatment or a course of lectures. 

Indeed, unconscious identification was fos- 
tered by still other things that we shared in com- 
mon. Together, we endured the world's reaction 
against our efforts to convey to it the new knowl- 
edge that had been vouchsafed us — and that we 
had nevertheless earned. Together, we endured 
scorn and destructive criticism. The isolation which 
we felt was forced upon us; the disillusionment we 
met with was experienced when we appealed to the 
intellectual integrity of our contemporaries. 

We began to have a deep, psychological under- 
standing of the conditions and limitations of our 
own selves and the selves of others. Together we 
arrived at the point where we could freely handle 
analysis as though it were a system of knowledge 
we had been born into. It became increasingly inte- 



grated into our lives ; and it bore within itself pain 
and comfort, tragedy and happiness. But it always 
offered us an original, clear understanding of our- 
selves and others. 

All these things account for the possibility of 
identification. They conferred on us in thoroughly 
abbreviated and simplified form that alien experi- 
ence, Freud's psychoanalysis, which was becoming 
our own and was teaching us to understand so many 
hidden elements in our beings. You resemble only 
the spirit you comprehend, and the more deeply you 
comprehend him, the more you resemble him. 

All this points to another characteristic of the 
unconscious process of identification — deepening in- 
wardness. Our more ranting critics have not trou- 
bled to notice the signs of this. A long path, which 
lies underground for the greater part of the way, 
leads from the stage where externalities are aped 
to that other stage where the follower strives to 
attain the aims of the archetype because he has come 
to feel them as his own. First he acquires that cer- 
tain manner his model has of clearing the throat, 
of gesturing. Then the follower unconsciously be- 
gins to make the same inner demands of his psyche. 
We see here a psychic development of decisive im- 
port. At the end of this process it is almost mean- 
ingless to attempt to decide what belongs to the ob- 
ject of identification and what to the transformed 

The Talmud has decided that Moses, after his 



descent from Sinai, was so filled with the spirit of 
God that he was justified in saying to the children 
of Israel, "I have given you the Law." A Hasidic 
rabbi was once asked by his students to interpret 
this passage, which seemed blasphemous to them. 
He answered with a fine parable. A merchant 
wished to undertake a journey. He hired an as- 
sistant to represent him in the interval and let him 
work at the counter. He himself made a practice of 
remaining in the adjoining room. From here he 
might often hear the apprentice saying to a cus- 
tomer, "The master cannot give it to you at that 
price." The merchant thought the time was not yet 
ripe to leave the shop to the mercies of the new- 
comer. The second year he heard the apprentice 
saying, "We cannot give it to you at that price." 
Still the merchant thought it would be wiser not to 
leave. At last, in the third year, he heard his appren- 
tice in the next room declaring, "I can't give it to 
you at that price." Not until then did he feel he 
could safely go on his journey. 


Some day a complete biography of Freud will 
be written, a detailed story of his quiet battles and 
the grudging, dogged war the world waged against 
psychoanalysis. Then men will recognize that his 
life was heroic in the best sense of the word ; that he 
and this age of ours stood as far apart as Beetho- 
ven's Eroica and a jazz operetta. Only the least part 



of his intellectual labors is to be found among' his 
collected writings. The greater part of it took place 
in the intervals when he was momentarily devoting 
himself to living subjects. These labors consisted 
in a struggle for truths that are ordinarily beyond 
our vision and grasp because everything in our be- 
ings strives against them. The strongest forces of 
our egos resisted these truths because they were 
repugnant to our education and our accustomed 
views, convictions, and ideals. His was a hero's life, 
and the victories he won were no less glorious than 
the more clamorous triumphs of war. His achieve- 
ments called for courage as high as that of the 
legendary knights who fought giants and fabulous 

Nowadays it is fashionable to contrast the atti- 
tude of a closed circle of psychoanalysts who keep 
stubbornly to their strict, limited viewpoint with 
that of a wider group of intellectuals. These, it is 
said, take a far more independent view of psycho- 
analysis and see in it broader perspectives. The 
members of this latter group, of course, are deeply 
interested in Freud's life work and fully esteem it; 
but naturally their point of vantage is far loftier 
than could possibly be attained by any "clique ana- 
lyst," as they term the Freud follower. Naturally, 
from so high a point of vantage it is easy to sur- 
vey Freud's path and to be full of esteem and appre- 
ciation. That is easier than to follow after Freud. 
A writer, commenting on a group of Beethoven biog- 



raphies, once said, "Anyone can babble, 'Through 
the night to the light/ " 

Those of us who with proud modesty call 
ourselves students of Freud believe that we under- 
stand the implications of psychoanalysis better than 
others, not because we have been closer to Freud, 
but because we have devoted the best part of our 
own lives to the same laborious task. Freud's un- 
tiring struggle both to acquire and to apply each 
new bit of knowledge was a titan's labor, and those 
of us who worked beside him and with him can esti- 
mate better than others the extent of that struggle 
and the sorrow and joy that went into it. 

That great wrestling with knowledge is an ex- 
ample for the generation now coming to maturity. 
There is a lesson here which cannot be taught. It 
can be learned only by living it. And this holds true 
for so many of the things we have learned from 

It is the same lesson that, more than a century 
ago, another thinker gave to his grandson as the 
best precept he had been able to derive from a long 
life. One day in April of the year 1825 the seven- 
year-old Walter von Goethe came with an album 
in his hand to his grandfather, the famous poet. 
Many ladies and gentlemen of the Weimar Court 
had already inscribed mottoes in the little book. 
Among them, for example, Frau Hofmarschall von 
Spiegel had written down one of the melancholy wit- 
ticisms of Jean Paul : "Man has two and a half min- 



utes; one for smiling, one for sighing, and a half for 
loving, for in the middle of this minute he dies." 
As he read these words the seventy-six-year-old poet 
let the book fall upon his knees. Something within 
him rebelled against the false emotional allure of 
the dictum; against the kind of Weltanschauung 
which accepted as the content of human existence 
"smiling and sighing and gentle loving." Abandon- 
ing himself to his inner protest against the senti- 
mental wisdom of the aphorism, he took up his pen. 
And while Jean Paul's sententious apportionment of 
human life still echoed within him, he wrote in his 
angular, already somewhat shaky hand, with its 
free, generous flow : 

"Ihrer sechzig liat die Stunde 
Ihrer tausend hat der Tag; 
Sohnchen, wcrde dir die Kunde 
Was man alles leisten mag" 

"Sixty of them in each hour 
A thousand in a single day ; 

Child, may you soon discover 
All you can do along the way." 




Those of us who are approaching the fifties or 
have already passed them have now become 
teachers of psychoanalysis ourselves, although we 
have never ceased to feel ourselves students of the 
master. A new generation of students has arisen, 
and these are presenting us with many difficult prob- 

When we were children, we liked to sing a 
round which went like this : 

"If you want to be a soldier 
Put a musket on your shoulder ; 
Load it up with powder tight 
And a leaden bullet bright. 
If you're going as recruit, 
Learn this song before you shoot." 

With the greatest simplicity this song tells what 
equipment the soldier needs and what basic things 
he has to learn. If an adult should be possessed of 
the strange desire to be a soldier, there it was, all 
laid down for him. "If you're going as recruit, learn 
this song before you shoot." When we grew up, 



we learned how correct the song was. Those few 
who had not wanted to believe it were forced to be- 

Unfortunately, we are not in the same con- 
venient position of being able to say accurately and 
unambiguously just what equipment the would-be 
analyst needs and how his training should proceed. 
What does the recruit need who joins the small 
group that makes up our movement? And what is 
absolutely essential for him to learn? 

I doubt whether the soldier's profession is very 
difficult; otherwise millions would not be able to 
learn it in so short a time. A few months of exer- 
cise and drill are enough to make a soldier. If the 
need is especially great, a few weeks' training will do. 

In the profession we have chosen — or rather, 
which has chosen us — training is long and arduous. 
In fact, it never ends. The very masters whose sci- 
entific work we most admire admit that they are 
always learning, always encountering something 
new. In this respect, great scientists do not differ 
from great artists. Shortly before his death, during 
the writing of the late quartets, Beethoven finally 
said that now, for the first time, he knew how to 

Young music students fresh out of the com- 
position class are, to be sure, a long way from such 
a view. They already know how simple apparently 
difficult things can be. But they do not yet know 
how difficult apparently simple things are. And we 



are wrong, from a psychologist's point of view, in 
requiring modesty of them. Only he who has already 
done significant work can be modest. You do not 
learn modesty until you have come to recognize that 
you must set yourself limited, modest goals. 

Nevertheless, these students are ready to learn 
a great deal. It is the task of the teacher to give 
them instruction in the technique of their trade, and 
to be an example for them. Everything else they 
must themselves bring to the task, and in the moil 
and toil of maturing they must develop everything 
within themselves and out of their own strength. 
The teacher of a class in composition cannot teach 
composing. Students who, when they entered the 
class, believed he could, soon learn better. 

This principle applies to the possibilities of 
training in psychoanalysis. The students at an insti- 
tution of learning can be taught the technical basis 
of analysis and they can be shown an example. 
There is nothing more that we can do for them. 
Tertium nan datur. 

This brings me to a thesis which I propounded 
and discussed in my book, Surprise and the Psy- 
choanalyst. This thesis, which runs as leitmotiv 
through the book, is as follows : The essential mat- 
ter of psychoanalysis cannot be learned; it can only 
be lived. That is true of both technique and theory, 
therapy and research. By essential matter I mean 
that element which in the analogy of the music stu- 



dent is represented by composing ability — the crea- 
tive as distinguished from the re-creative. 

In other words, by instruction and demonstra- 
tion through books, courses, and seminars, only the 
technicalities of the psychoanalytic profession can 
be learned. The most important aspects of tech- 
nique must be experienceed. This communicable ma- 
terial is indispensable and basic to the analyst. But 
that material which must be acquired by experience 
is decisive for the effective practice of his profes- 

What can be learned will be imparted through 
methodological instruction, through suggestions on 
what the psychoanalyst must do, how he must work 
to achieve his heuristic and therapeutic goal. Such 
instruction will suggest also — and this is no less 
important — what he must avoid and omit, lest he 
place unnecessary barriers in his way. Command of 
such mechanics of his trade is more than an indis- 
pensable prerequisite to the difficult work of the 
analyst. Not until he knows just how far these tech- 
nicalities go, and knows them utterly, may he ven- 
ture to overstep the bounds. Only when he thor- 
oughly understands the peculiarities of his tools and 
has practiced their use for a long time, does he come 
to the point where he need no longer concern him- 
self about them. Then he may use them with the 
sovereignty and assurance that only the master 

We have not the remotest intention of under- 



estimating this craftsmanship. But there is another 
form of subtle underestimating which consists of 
assigning to craftsmanship tasks for which it is 
not fitted. Craftsmanship is degraded and abused 
when it is not properly esteemed for what it is. But 
it is also degraded and abused when it is confused 
with art. It is always far better to be a first-class 
craftsman than a poor artist. 


If our claim is true that the most important 
elements of analysis cannot be learned, but must be 
experienced, then there really can be no teachers of 
psychoanalysis. There can only be models, proto- 
types. We cannot, however, discuss this before we 
have answered the question: models for whom? 

Here I must consider a distinction which I my- 
self have observed and acted upon and which, per- 
haps, can claim to be no more than a personal judg- 
ment. Nevertheless, it can serve us well as a means 
of clarification. In our courses and seminars and in 
our personal association with the young men who 
wish to become psychoanalysts, we can differentiate 
two main types : the sorcerer's apprentices and the 
students. Granted, this sharp division is an arbi- 
trary one, for in reality we seldom meet such distinct 
types. We can observe many students maturing like 
the butterfly out of the larva. It is a process which 
sometimes sets in early, in the years of apprentice- 
ship, and sometimes much later. I fear most of us 



were sorcerer's apprentices before we became stu- 
dents. And many remain sorcerer's apprentices for- 

What is a sorcerer's apprentice? We know that 
the epithet comes from Goethe's ballad. The poet 
shows us an apprentice who has a splendid aptitude 
for imitating the master's actions in externalities. 
When the old magician betakes himself off, the ap- 
prentice attempts to force the spirits to work his 
will and then vanish again. For the master had 
shown him how to conjure: 

"Seine Wort' und Werke 
Merkt' ich und den Branch 
Und mit Getstesstdrke 
Tu ich IV under auch." 

"I am now — what joy to hear it — 
Of the old magician rid; 
And henceforth shall every spirit 
Do whatever be my bid. 
I have watched with rigor 
All he used to do, 
And will now with vigor 
Work my wonders too." 

But alas, such mechanical observation of the 
words and the works will never make anyone a sor- 
cerer or a psychoanalyst 

The "sorcerer's apprentice" will have a compe- 
tent knowledge of all the accomplishments of psy- 
choanalytic theory and of all that has been said or 



written about the practice. He learns everything 
that can be learned. But he does not realize how 
much of it cannot be learned ! When he is at a loss 
for ideas, he will always be able to find the right 
technical term. And he will abandon this term only 
with the greatest reluctance, even when the word 
threatens to destroy the spirit. Later on, when he 
has become an analyst, he will be able to classify 
each impulse in the patient as pertaining to this or 
that instinctual component. He wilt be able to state 
precisely from what complex a patient "suffers." 
Towards a neurotic he will exhibit the same sort of 
superiority or pitying condescension that a doctor 
of a hundred years ago felt towards a lunatic. (The 
times have changed. Above the gateway of a mod- 
ern institution are inscribed the words, "Not all 
who are within are insane, and not all the insane 
are within.") He will exercise the routine and me- 
chanics of analytic interpretation; but he will not 
comprehend the meaning of it. He will know all the 
trifling secrets of the language of the unconscious, 
but the great mystery of the language of uncon- 
scious minutiae will remain a mystery to him. With- 
out doubt, he will some day publish casuistic theo- 
retic essays in analytic journals; perhaps he will 
even write books. Here, certainly, his style will be- 
tray that he is no magician, perhaps not even a 
magician apprentice. (If it be true that "le style, 
c'est rhomme," then no one can make the deduction 
that our present-day psychologists are bad. On the 



contrary, most of them are good, capable and 
mediocre people. Let us not imagine that "externali- 
ties" do not count. The manner of expression of 
thought is inseparably bound up with the very na- 
ture of the thought.) 

In a word, the sorcerer's apprentice will know 
so much about the unconscious side of the psyche 
that he will be able to understand very little of it. 
One of the signs by which we recognize him is his 
want of respect for the mighty forces of uncon- 
scious instincts. He knows everything there is to be 
known. He is not aware of the dangerous fallacy 
of underestimating the opponent. Only the man who 
first does homage to his opponent's might can hope 
to come away victorious. 

The sorcerer's apprentice thinks he can illumi- 
nate and explain away all the unconscious elements 
in the human psyche. He would think differently if 
he realized how dark these depths still are, realized 
that we cannot hope ever to penetrate them com- 
pletely. He who bears a torch through the night 
should not imagine he has changed night to day. 
Only men who have preserved or regained their re- 
spect for the all-powerful nightly aspects of the 
psyche are destined to be analysts. 

The sorcerer's apprentice is proud of his acu- 
men and believes that his mind can find out all 
things unconscious. He does not know that sensory 
keenness and great intelligence, precise observation 
and irreproachable logic, need not exclude the un- 


conscious phantasy. He does not or will not recog- 
nize that there is much that is closed to reason and 
open only to intuitive perception. After all, he pur- 
sues his orderly and shrewd reasoning about uncon- 
scious processes ; he works everything out logically. 
Why should he traffic with intuition? 

Secure and comfortable in the all-embracing 
extensions of his own consciousness, he derives 
therefrom all the certainties he needs. He knows, of 
course, from his study of analytic theory that the 
analyst should question his own unconscious if he 
wishes to understand the unconscious processes of 
others ; but for him this dictum is never more than 
barren theory. 

The sorcerer's apprentice sees the teacher 
merely as one who teaches; he sees the cliche and 
not the example. The teacher does not appear in 
the latter guise until the disciple has become a stu- 
dent. An example is no model. He is to be followed, 
not aped. It is not even necessary for an example 
to be exemplary in every respect. In his life and 
work he may easily have the weaknesses of faults 
of all men; he must be exemplary only in his inner 
truthfulness and the intensity of his efforts. In 
respecting him we appreciate not only the clarity, 
rationality, and tranquillity which he has fought 
through to, but also the demonic depths from which 
he wrested these qualities. If we are sensitive, we 
will perceive that the profound silence and darkness 



out of which the work was born have left their 
traces in it. 

In the genius we revere not only the keen ob- 
servation, the forceful logic, and the faithful repro- 
duction of what he has seen, but the gift for intui- 
tive perception, a gift which belongs to an obscurer 
realm. Rembrandt has been greater than any artist 
for strictness and exactitude of observation, yet the 
French have called him a "visionnaire." It was 
darkness that disclosed to him the effects of light. 
Of Freud, too, we may say what the painter and 
art critic Eugene Fromentin said of Rembrandt, 
"Cest avec de la nuit, qu'il a fait le jour." 

To my mind a student is one who not only 
wishes to understand the craftsmanship of the ana- 
lyst, but who also feels analytic thinking as an 
inner necessity. It is for the sake of these that 
we teachers work hardest, for them we try to be 
exemplars. They will understand that they are 
dealing with living exemplars and not wax figures. 
They will see that the exemplar is fallible and full 
of faults; that the seeking, not the finding, is impor- 
tant, The exemplar will not stand impressively like 
a bust upon their bookcases, but enter into their 
work as a living force. What they have learned in 
their "course in analysis" will be less important 
than the living experience they have had there. That 
will prove its usefulness when they are faced with 



the task of understanding from the psychoanalytic 
point of view the experiences of others. They will 
soon be free of the temptation to ape the exemplar 
when they begin to feel great confidence in their 
own development, which has been fostered and 
shaped within them by their teacher's influence. 

For their work the conscious memory of their 
teacher need not always rise to the surface. But the 
memory-traces and effects of that memory must be 
efficient. The individual clues the training analyst 
can give the student are not decisive. The teacher 
must show him the direction of his own develop- 
ment; show him the line that he himself followed. 
Undoubtedly, many remarks of the teacher will re- 
main in the memory of the student, and will be re- 
membered with pleasure. But the aims and ideas 
that those remarks stirred in the student, the direc- 
tion in which they led him, are more significant. 
The student who possesses such an exemplar must 
not swear by the teacher's words. Rather, he must 
conjure up the living spirit in those words. 

My initial comparison of the analyst with the 
student of a composition class may seem arbitrary 
to some. There is a wide separation between scien- 
tific and artistic endeavors, and the analogy must 
not be stretched too far. Nevertheless, it still has 
point, for both the analyst and the composer must 
listen to the murmurings from out of the obscurest 
recesses and profoundest depths of the psyche — in 
themselves as well as others. When their hearing is 



poor, they will never go beyond superficial under- 
standing and shallow formulations. A sentence of 
Freud's comes to my mind now which seems to jus- 
tify this comparison — a sentence written in rejec- 
tion of such reinterpretations of psychoanalytic 
findings as are, for instance, to be found in the 
writings of Jung. Freud wrote: "In truth, out of 
the symphony of world history they had heard only 
a few cultural overtones and once more disregarded 
the mighty original melody of the instincts." 

I again assume and extend this comparison 
with musical composition. "The most important 
element in music is not to be found in the notes," 
Mahler once remarked. The most important ele- 
ments in psychoanalysis are not to be found in the 
books. No one can make music who has not music 
within himself. And courses in analysis do exist, 
but they should aim at developing analysts; for 
what can be taught is only a small part of analytic 
education. ( Is it not hard to believe that there were 
once "scholars" in the field of applied psychology? 
There is no room here for any but research work- 

For the young analyst who has relearned and 
re-experienced through treating his own cases the 
subject matter of his formal education, there exists 
a so-called control analysis. Many colleagues prefer 
the term analysis control. But what can be con- 
trolled? The analysis, perhaps? Basically, one can 
check only the technicalities, the outer aspect of an 



analysis. Its deeper levels, the revealing heart of the 
analysis, are exempt from all "control." A lock- 
smith can check up on the key his apprentice has 
completed ; he can show him how and where he has 
fashioned it wrong and how he should have made 
it. But the work of a poet or musician cannot be 
"controlled." We can only say what we have felt 
while reading or listening, what thoughts and emo- 
tions were born in us. With some reservations, the 
same is true of the heuristic and therapeutic work 
of the analyst — the probing of obscure psychic re- 
lationships. We can, of course, "check" the correct- 
ness and dexterity of the craftsmanship. That, al- 
though not the most important part, is still impor- 
tant enough to be learned thoroughly. 

The student of analysis must find exemplars 
rather than rules, He must not measure himself 
against these exemplars, for that would dismay 
him. But he should compare his work with the work 
of his master, for the comparison will encourage 

Those of us who have become teachers while 
still learning shall always be deeply grateful for 
our fortunate meeting with the creator of analysis. 
Our work will clearly demonstrate that we were 
and have remained students of Freud. But we will 
not allow ourselves to be categorized with sarcasm 
as Freudians. 

To such sneers we reply as Schubert once did 
in a similar situation in Vienna. (How our minds 



still turn again and again to the city which was 
ours !) The composer, who shyly revered the great 
masters as only another great composer can, was 
asked a question which was quite fashionable at the 
time, "Are you a Beethovenian or a Mozartian?" 
Schubert replied, "I'm a Schubertian." 

It may occasionally flatter the teacher when his 
students are proud of him. But a real teacher hopes 
he may be proud of his students. If the work of the 
novice is to praise the master, it is necessary that 
the student be "his own man." 

* * * 

I often had long talks with Freud about the 
qualifications and education of the analyst. We 
were agreed that a medical education is inade- 
quate for the profession of analyst. In the course 
of the conversation, Freud pointed out that poets 
(Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoyevsky) and philoso- 
phers (Plato, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) had come 
closer to the fundamental truths of psychoanalysis 
than had the physicians. He once informed me that 
the natural scientist, and philosopher, Paracelsus 
(1493-1541), had advanced a theory of neurotic 
therapy which was akin to that of psychoanalysis. 
This scientist, who had been persecuted as a quack, 
had recommended a strengthening of the ego as a 
counterpoise to the instinctual forces which are 
morbidly expressed in neurosis. "Just what he him- 



self understood by it, I don't know/' Freud added, 
"but there is no doubt as to its correctness." 

On the question of the education of the ana- 
lyst Freud differed with me. He found my views 
too exacting and had more respect than I for the 
value of instruction. He admitted, however, that 
the personal inclinations and talent of the individual 
were more important than is generally conceded. In 
a conversation on Dostoyevsky he smilingly granted 
my assertion that this poet had more psychological 
talent than the whole International Psychoanalytic 
Society; but he felt that Dostoyevsky was a phe- 
nomenal case. I replied that all instruction and 
control analysis was in vain if it were offered to 
individuals who had no innate gift and did not pos- 
sess that "psychic sensitivity" he had once spoken 
of. He nodded to this, but insisted that the talent 
of understanding unconscious processes was more 
widespread than I would have it, and that self- 
analysis and control analysis augmented and de- 
veloped this talent. We finally agreed that the ideal 
would be for those who were born psychologists to 
learn the analytic method and be able to practice 
it. We have said we have to seek out such "born 
psychologists" not only in the circle of psychiatrists 
and neurologists. In my opinion they will be as few 
and far between there as anywhere else. 






The title of this lecture may be explained in 
quite simple fashion; the lecture was not pub- 
lished under Freud's name, but under mine, at 
Freud's express wish. It formed part of an intro- 
ductory course in analysis which was given early in 
November, 1913, in the great auditorium of the 
Vienna Psychiatric clinic. I was one of a large audi- 
ence made up of both doctors and laymen, men and 
women, Freud spoke extemporaneously, as usual. 
The lecture was one of the last of the winter 
semester, which Freud had devoted mainly to the 
psychopathology of everyday life. In these winter 
lectures he often chose examples from the day's 
activities and made them the subject of analytic 
examination and interpretation. He wished to give 
his students a broad perspective of the analytic 
technique of interpretation. I took notes on many 
of these lectures, intending later to review and ex- 
pand these notes. 

After the lecture I walked home with Freud, 
as I usually did. I recall that I begged him to write 
out and publish the lectures. He seemed surprised 
and did not agree with me. As is well known, the 



lectures he did eventually publish were not those of 
this year, but those held during the winter semesters 
of 1915-1916 and 1916-1917: the General Intro- 
duction to Psychoanalysis. 

A few days later I had occasion to send Freud 
a review of mine, and I took this opportunity to 
remind him of our conversation. During the lecture 
it had occurred to me that Freud's analysis had 
failed to grasp certain logical explanations, and this 
opinion was reinforced when I went over the notes. 
From my notes I wrote out the core of the lecture 
as a review, and added my supplementary interpre- 
tations. In this review I remarked that it would be 
unfortunate if this beautiful analysis were to be 
lost and I again begged Freud to publish it. In a 
letter dated November 13, 1913, Freud replied: 
"Dear Herr Doktor, One of your two articles, that 
completing my analysis of Demolle [sic] is a very 
fine piece of work. I really had not noticed the 
parallelism: n^^t^ 

Vaschide — Freud 

I suggest that you publish your comments on the 
whole analysis in the Zeitschrijt, not as a review 
but as an essay, and thus utilize my remarks in the 
lecture." Some time later we talked over the matter 
and I remarked to Freud that his lecture had sup- 
plied all essentials for the analysis of the case and 
that my contribution had only the value of a 
vignette. He insisted, however, that without my 



additions the analysis was incomplete and urged me 
to follow his suggestion. The essay was published 
in the Internationale Zeitsckrift fur artzliche Psy- 
choanalyse J vol. II, 1914, P ; ,i5i ff. under the title, 
"Ein Fall von plotzlicher Uberzeugung." A foot- 
note which no one noticed read: "The following 
analysis of a complex psychological phenomenon is 
only in part my own. I have here made use of a 
lecture given by Professor Freud in November, 


The following is an attempt to reconstruct that 

lecture which Freud gave twenty-six years ago. I 
have referred to my own memory as well as to the 
published essay. Naturally, I cannot claim to have 
faithfully reproduced the exact wording of the lec- 
ture, but I believe I have been faithful to the spirit. 
In many passages I feel sure that Freud's very 
words have been preserved. 

For the sake of unity and continuity I have 
interpolated my supplementary remarks into the 
text of the lecture, inserting my name to indicate 
the origin of these remarks. By putting them in 
their appropriate place I believe I have rounded out 
the analysis as Freud would have done. He had 
himself made some small stylistic changes in my 
original essay and added the final sentence as it 
appears here. The following is therefore a recon- 
struction of the original lecture. 




Ladies and Gentlemen: At our last meeting 1 
we considered all sorts of puzzling minor matters 
that admit of analytic interpretation. Doubtless 
any one of you might furnish similar incidents from 
his own experience. At one time or another all of 
us have been nonplussed by a peculiar combination 
of circumstances and have vainly sought to explain 
apparently supernatural happenings. These events 
usually bear little relationship to vital decisions or 
crises in our lives. Rather, they crop up into the 
routine of daily life as though to point out to us 
that everyday events are not necessarily common- 

What are the psychic bases and motives of such 
puzzling incidents? We must heartily welcome any 
clues that may lead us to a solution. "Recently, a 
young physician, Dr. V. Demole, writing in the 
Swiss journal, Archives de Psychologie (edited by 
Professors Th. Flournoy and Ed. Clarapede), de- 
scribed a peculiar experience of this kind which in- 
vites analysis. I shall read a translation of Demole's 

"One morning in October, 19 12, I awoke and 
lay, as I am accustomed to do, half dreaming, when 
suddenly I had a sharp and definite feeling of 
anxiety that a patient of mine had died. I thought 
immediately of checking this and automatically 
reached for my notebook which lay close to the 



bed. I quickly noted down everything that had 
passed through my mind on awakening. Thanks to 
these notes, I can reconstruct my psychic processes 
and understand when and how I committed a psy- 
chological sin." 

These are the facts as reported by Demole. He 
recorded his notes in telegraphic style. "I awaken, 
stretch — a moment of dreaming and suddenly I say 
to myself: Larin is dead. At first I am astonished 
by the news and then by my feeling of certainty. 
Why am I so certain that he is dead ? I really have 
no grounds for thinking so. Is this a prophetic 
vision? Or rather, a telepathic sensation? I feel 
pleased because here is a premonition I can test. 
Immediately literary references come to mind: a 
succession of flashing images succeeding each other 
with great rapidity. Vascide (brown book jacket of 
Telepathic Hallucinations) — James (a sensation of 
the sea, vision of waves) — Swedenborg (green map 
of Sweden and Norway) — Freud (yellow map of 
Austria, with Vienna a black dot on the Danube) ; 
his book, the Psycho pathology which I finished 
reading only a few days ago. Freud . . . uncon- 
scious . . . quickly, I must analyze myself ( I reach 
for the paper and pencil). What was I thinking? 
Immediately before the premonition I thought of 
the professor of pathological anatomy. Why? Be- 
cause I want to ask him whether I may go to the 
Paris Congress with him. (I have had this project 
in mind for several weeks.) That is the first thought 



that has come to me this morning; before that noth- 
ing, nothing. I place my hand on the alarm clock. 
Yes, I should have asked him while we were work- 
ing on that last autopsy. Now I see myself at the 
desk, taking notes as the professor, in a rubber 
coat, does the dissection . . . dissects Larin. Larin's 
autopsy . . . But that is impossible; Larin is still 
living. Who was it then? Can this be a second omen 
of death? How strange that I should twice think 
of Larin as being dead. I put down the pencil and 
think back. The last autopsy was on Nicoud — that 
is certain. Why, I remember wrapping a bit of the 
brain in celloidin and writing 'Nicoud' on the tag. 
Suddenly I think, Nicoud had his bed in the same 
room as Larin . . . again Larin. Astonished at this 
new confirmation of my obsession that Larin is 
dead, I again take my pencil and add to my notes. 
It is already quite late ; I dress hastily and start on 
my rounds. I go to Larin's room. The door is still 
open; I ask: 'How is Larin?' The nurse answers, 
'He died at four o'clock this morning.' I hold my 
breath, then breathe deeply again. I feel pleased 
that this is such an interesting case. Freud . . , 

Demole adds that he had not seen Larin for 
two days. On his last visit to him the patient had 
been very weak and was curled up in his blankets. 
The nurse had said that for the last twenty-four 
hours Larin had refused all food. Nevertheless, 
Demole had been unworried, for he knew that old 



chronic cases of this sort could drag on for a 
long time without nourishment. Some days before, 
Nicoud, whose bed was opposite Larin' s, had died 
in this same room. Later Demole verified that the 
autopsy on Nicoud had taken place on October 5th, 
191 2. Larin died October 9th. No other autopsy had 
been made in the meantime. 

Like Larin, Nicoud had died of a lingering ill- 
ness, finally refusing food and passing into a coma. 
Demole could thus find many analogies between 
the two patients; both were old, always bedridden, 
whining, wasting away, refusing food in the end, 
and dying under the same circumstances. These an- 
alogies appeared to Demole well calculated to bring 
about a confusion of the two. 

Demole attempted to derive his explanation 
from these similarities. In his daydream, as soon 
as his thoughts turned to the autopsy room, it was 
quite easy to substitute the corpse of Nicoud for 
that of his double. The essential differences between 
the two lay only in features and names. Demole re- 
marks that the physician rarely thinks about a 
patient who died some time ago. He is mainly con- 
cerned with a patient just before the end, for he 
wishes confirmation of his diagnosis. During life the 
patient is "cathexed with affects" and at the autopsy 
a kind of "abreaction" occurs. Demole here uses 
analytic terminology and thinks of my name. When 
scientific curiosity has been satisfied, the dead man is 
no longer interesting. "The dead Nicoud is con- 



signed to oblivion, while the dying Larin approaches 
an event that is at least as important as his birth." 
You see, Demole believed that this sudden convic- 
tion, this "conviction spontanee," had proved that an 
interchange had taken place, a substitution which 
was suggested by the similarities between the pa- 
tients. The name of the one was almost forgotten, 
though Demole could easily recall that of the other. 
Thus it happens that the one who is deceased does 
not concern him any longer, while the second, who 
is dying, is uppermost in his thoughts. Here is 
another curious factor : Demote' s superior had diag- 
nosed Larin's case as senility with multiple areas of 
softening in the brain — and Nicoud's, as arterio- 
sclerosis. With Nicoud the diagnosis proved correct, 
but Demole was greatly surprised when the autopsy 
of Larin disclosed the same characteristic lesions 
that had been found in Nicoud. It was one analogy 

To explain the strange experience, Demole 
turned to the concept of the unconscious. He con- 
ceived of the relation between the associations as 
something similar to the chemist's affinities between 
elements. Every feeling, every conscious or uncon- 
scious idea, has associations to other feelings or 
images, just as atoms mutually satisfy their va- 
lences. By means of this metaphor, Demole found 
it quite simple to explain the psychic mechanism of 
his "conviction." His first thought on awakening 
was anticipatory of the Congress at Paris. With 



this idea he associated the professor of pathology 
whom Demole had seen at the last autopsy. The 
remaining associations centered around the basic 
idea "autopsy room" : the corpse of Nicoud re- 
minded him of the characteristics of the patient, 
whose name, however, was not called up. Larin had 
the same characteristics and therefore he was sub- 
stituted for the true owner of them. Thereupon, 
there appeared the image of the dead Larin, in 
spite of Demole's knowing that Larin was still 
alive. The resultant affect was striking, and the 
idea "Larin — dead" suddenly became conscious as 
an apparently spontaneous and independent idea, 
for the preceding thought about the "professor of 
pathology in the autopsy room" had no obvious 
association to Larin. There was no recollection of 
the intermediary steps in the chain of associations, 
since these were unconscious. Only the prompt psy- 
choanalysis afforded us evidence of their existence, 
says Demole. 

Now you see that psychoanalysis meant no 
more to this physician than a method of uncover- 
ing unconscious associations. He ascribed to this 
method its definite heuristic value. The apprecia- 
tion, however, stops here. But I should like to show 
you in this very case that the analytic method is 
capable of much wider powers in psychological in- 

To repeat, Demole believed that his experience 
of sudden conviction was precipitated by an uncon- 



scious substitution. But this in turn was conditioned 
by the coincidence of extraordinarily favorable cir- 
cumstances and the half -sleeping state after awak- 
ening. Demole supplemented his explanation with 
some general remarks on similar experiences. 

Sudden conviction is usually accompanied by a 
strong affect of shock. The positive thought arouses 
astonishment, disorientation, terror; it is thus very 
understandable how in the religious spheres the re- 
action to conviction is described by such forceful 
expressions as "revelation," "feeling oneself suf- 
fused with Grace," "touched by the Finger of God." 
Demole cited the case of a Polish philosopher who 
was leaving a bath when he suddenly found him- 
self faced with emotions that converted him to 
Catholicism. Demole insists that it would be too 
daring to explain all the different cases of convic- 
tion spontanee as simple unconscious substitutions. 
There are, evidently, several psychological mech- 
anisms which bring about the same result ; but they 
vary from case to case. 

I have thus given a broad outline of the young 
physician's own explanation. At the end of his essay 
Demole remarks that he had ascribed to the two 
patients a common feature which did not in reality 
exist : he had applied to both the term gateux, bed- 
wetter. This was, however, true only of Nicoud; 
Larin was not subject to incontinentia ztrtnae. De- 
mole comments that this mistake is consistent with 
his explanation, in fact, even reinforces it. To ex- 



plain why he happened to make this incorrect des- 
ignation, Demole takes into account the locality. 
Larin and Nicoud occupied opposite beds in a room 
on the second floor of the hospital. The room im- 
mediately below this one had exactly the same archi- 
tectural features, the same number of windows and 
beds, et cetera. Even the patients in the two rooms 
were similar, old, bedridden, chronic cases. One 
might easily confuse them. It had happened several 
times that Demole, intending to go to a patient on 
the second floor, had gone to one on the first— and 
vice versa. In the lower room, in the bed corre- 
sponding to the one occupied by Larin, for some 
months there had been a patient whom Demole had 
catheterized many times and who often used to wet 
the bed. Demole had thus ascribed to Larin that 
symptom from which the other suffered; and this 
mistake was prompted not by some personal simi- 
larities but simply by the similarity of place. The 
interchange must have been facilitated by the fact 
that Nicoud, Larin's double, was also a bed-wetter. 
The doctor saw these phenomena of displacement 
as analogous to those we observe in dreams, where, 
impelled by more or less transparent motives, we 
transform objects, reverse situations, transpose 
characters, and ascribe to one person the weak- 
nesses and characteristics of another. 

You will agree with me that Dr. Demole's at- 
tempt to explain his experience psychologically has 
been made with conscientiousness and intelligence. 



Yet why does his explanation seem to us insuffi- 
cient? In my opinion, he was too easily satisfied. 
He limited himself to description of the tangible 
phenomena, employing psychoanalysis only to dis- 
cover the unconscious connecting ideas. This all- 
too-modest use of our method ends in Wundt's as- 
sociation psychology. The terminology is slightly 
different, but the substance is the same. Psycho- 
analysis, however, goes far beyond this. Our dy- 
namic conception of the psyche leads us to the hid- 
den intentions and impulses which underlie such an 
experience. The perception of unconscious associa- 
tions is certainly indispensable to such an investi- 
gation. But it is no more than preliminary work 
which must be done if we are to gain a glimpse of 
the play of psychic forces which goes on behind the 
scenes of conscious phenomena. 

We are not alone in our dissatisfaction with 
Demole's explanation. Flournoy, one of the editors 
of the Archives de Psychologies appended to Dr. 
Demole's interesting study an equally interesting 
postscript. His point of departure is curious. He 
maintains that Demole's purely psychological inter- 
pretation would suffice if Larin had not actually 
died. But Larin's death suggests the possibility that 
Dr. Demole unconsciously perceived the event itself 
during his sleep. 

"Is it not possible," Flournoy asks, "that early 
in the morning an unusual noise resulting from the 
death — say, a conversation of patients in the cor- 



ridor — had penetrated to the unconscious of the 
sleeper?" In support of this view, Flournoy points 
to the combination of two factors: (i) The memo- 
ries, regrets, and wishes connected with the autopsy 
of Nicoud, where Demole had neglected to speak to 
the professor of pathology. Why had the conviction 
of Larin's death occurred on the morning when it 
actually took place ? Why not on one of the previous 
three days; why at all, in any case? (2) The infor- 
mation which Dr. Demole had given Flournoy that 
this was his first and only experience of this kind. 

Demole writes to Flournoy: "I have never pre- 
viously experienced anything similar to this. I can 
say this with assurance, for I have always been 
interested in psychology, even before I knew your 
name in connection with it. When I was quite small, 
everything having to do with the soul, the mystery 
of religion, tormented me unceasingly. If I had 
experienced such a feeling before I should certainly 
have written it down. Once, when I was thirteen 
years old, something I desired fervently unexpect- 
edly came true. Some years ago I dreamed that an 
uncle had married ; several weeks later I learned of 
his betrothel. That is all." 

Demole's one experience of this kind, then, was 
consonant with reality. Unlike most such experi- 
ences, it was not deceptive. It seemed to Flournoy, 
therefore, that such a double coincidence would jus- 
tify believers in telepathy in claiming that Demole 
possessed telepathic powers. The conditions and 



circumstances of the "conviction" were such that 
a combination of psychoanalysis and supernatural 
psychology would seem to offer the best explana- 
tion. Adepts at the occult would suggest that the 
"omnipotence of thought" and the objective force 
of the wish might have at least hastened the death 
of Larin, even if they had not brought it about. 
Flour noy is surprised that Dr. Demole sought no 
explanation for the connection of his premonition 
with the actual fact of Larin's death. Demole was 
surely aware of the metaphysic problem, for he re- 
fers to telepathy several times, cites Vaschide, 
Meyer, and others. Yet he acts as though he had 
found Larin still living. Flournoy emphasises in 
reference to this that Demole wants to investigate 
when and how he had psychologically sinned 

Demole did his best to explain an error — and 
the upshot is that he shows he has made no error. 
Flournoy remarks that one would not expect such 
carelessness from so penetrating and keen a mind 
as that of Dr. Demole. Obviously, he is guilty of 
the kind of lack of attention with which we are con- 
cerned in the Psychopathology of Everyday Life. 
This momentary psychic blindness reveals poorly 
repressed complexes which inhibit (or intellectually 
anesthetize) his awareness of occult possibilities. 
But our author shares this attitude with most scien- 
tists. They reject everything that hints at mysti- 
cism, miracles or superstition. This repression of 



the "mystic complex" is usually unsuccessful and 
acts as an irritant to the consciousness, producing 
a kind of obsession which clouds the reason and is 
translated finally into various symptomatic acts. 
Thus, by way of overcompensation, the repression 
of this complex gives rise to hostility and sarcasm 
towards everything occult, and results in a narrow- 
ing of the intellectual horizon, in irritability, and 
in distorted judgments. The passage in the letter 
makes it quite clear that Dr. Demole has just such 
an "antimystical complex." Flour noy believes the 
influence of this repressed complex on the conscious 
mind is shown in the unexpected allusions to reli- 
gious phenomena and in the mention of the Polish 
philosopher. By showing that the origin of his own 
"conviction" was purely subjective, Demole hoped 
to prove that religious experiences are also subjec- 
tive, not objective, revelation. 

In concluding, however, Flournoy confesses 
that he has given way to a complex of his own. 
"An observer free of emotional complexes, that is, 
absolutely neutral and impartial, free of any latent 
tendencies, any prejudices, any tastes and distastes, 
is humanly impossible. Such a man would observe 
nothing and learn nothing." Flournoy refers to the 
psychoanalytic practice which demands that every 
psychologist undergo self -analysis. He has discov- 
ered in himself a leaning toward the miraculous. 
Also, the Polish philosopher was one of Flournoy's 
friends and Flournoy was slightly annoyed at his 



being brought into the discussion. This annoyance, 
Flournoy suggests, had prompted him to be so 
sharply critical of Demole's reasoning. 

Demole defended himself against Flournoy's 
interesting commentary. In the next issue of the 
same magazine, the young physician published a 
sharp retort. The double coincidence which is Flour- 
noy's point of departure seems to him unimportant. 
He states that his unconscious did not have four 
whole days in which to work, but only forty-eight 
hours — the interval between the last visit to Larin 
and his death. There were only two short periods 
(the few moments after waking in the morning) 
which combined the necessary conditions of som- 
nolence and daydreaming. The hypnagogic phase 
preceding sleep could be eliminated because he read 
until late at night and fell asleep thinking about his 

His preoccupation with the Paris Congress was 
the basis of the premonition. But in the daytime he 
thought about the Congress in an entirely different 
manner. During the day Demole had to make deci- 
sions, to write, to talk — in short, to act as a con- 
scious man must. Demole admits he cannot explain 
satisfactorily why the thought of the Congress had 
not come on the first morning. He conjectured, how- 
ever, that the intensity of this thought must have 
increased as the time for the Congress drew nearer. 
He firmly opposes any attempt to connect the 
premonition with telepathy, feeling certain that the 



true explanation was a purely psychological one. 
His own explanation seems to him so complete 
that any recourse to "suprapsychic" phenomena is 
superfluous. Demole adds further that he has had 
occasion to observe several similar coincidences 
since Flournoy's criticism drew his attention to 
them. This too, he feels, this very frequency with 
which a premonition coincides with reality, is an 
argument against Flournoy's theory. 

Well, what do you think about it now ? I have 
noticed that you are inclined to view some of 
Flournoy's objections as justified, but not others. I 
do not know whether it is as offensive to you as to 
me that he drags in expressions like "the repression 
of the mystical complex." On the other hand, you 
will perhaps feel that Demole is right, that his ex- 
perience is a phenomenon that can be explained by 
psychology alone. In this particular case there is no 
necessity to raise the clamor of telepathy or super- 
natural force. 

His discussion was interesting and contributed 
to the elucidation of several points. Yet I believe 
that it has not satisfied us, who expected a total 
solution of this little problem. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Together we will at- 
tempt, by means of analytic methods of observation 
and technique of interpretation, to solve this essen- 



tial problem. When we use these methods correctly, 
we shall be best able to demonstrate how excellently 
they can clarify dark psychic phenomena. Let us 
start our analysis of Demole's experience by taking 
the facts as stated by the author, and utilizing 
apparently trivial, but important, details from his 
account to explain the psychogenesis of the event. 
We are going to proceed with perfect liberty — for 
when the scientist makes his own self -analysis the 
subject of his communication he must give license 
to this. The author will not, we trust, take offense. 
Let us assume, just as Demole does, that the 
immediate origin of the premonition is his thoughts 
on the coming Congress. Demole had neglected to 
speak with the professor about this; he had failed 
to make his request. He longs for another oppor- 
tunity to do so, and makes use of a memory in order 
to carry out the phantasy. The autopsy on Nicoud 
had been an opportunity that he had passed by. The 
next patient who seemed about to die was Larin. 
It is possible that this thought was already present 
in the preconscious of the young physician during 
his last visit to Larin. Demole had received an im- 
pression of the critical condition of the patient; this 
aroused the hope that he might be able to make his 
request when the professor autopsied Larin. This 
wishful nature of the premonition is derived from 
the quite understandable ambition of the young 
doctor. Indeed, it was this desire which made the 
visit to the Paris Congress appear so worth his 



striving after. Hence, the young doctor would 
already have wished that Larin might die soon, so 
that he might have an opportunity to speak with the 

We are thus inclined to point to Demole's am- 
bition as the instinctual impulse which led him to 
his sudden conviction. You will recall his descrip- 
tion of the first waking moments. His first thought 
was of the Paris Congress and the professor whom 
he would accompany. His further associations led 
to the autopsy on Nicoud. He thought, however: 
Larin's autopsy. This permutation of thought shows 
a small but significant slip. It implies that he had 
presupposed Larin's death in his phantasy because 
the autopsy would afford another opportunity to 
make his request of the professor. 

Naturally, we do not claim to account for the 
coincidental agreement between the premonition and 
reality, a matter which made so strong an impres- 
sion on Demole and which Flournoy believed re- 
quired explanation. In fact, we find nothing espe- 
cially puzzling about this. We receive the impres- 
sion, however, that Demole looked upon the event 
as a favorable presage for his secret wishes, and 
interpreted it in that way. It is as if he had said 
to himself: Since this mysterious premonition has 
proved true, my other, more important wishes will 
come true. The feeling of pleasure experienced by 
Demole after he had learned of Larin's death cer- 
tainly runs consistent with our assumption. We 



surmise that it stemmed from the increase of ego- 
feeling, from the confirmation of the omnipotence 
of his thought. He had good cause for this feeling, 
since he had conceived of his presage as an omen 
that his secret wishes would be fulfilled. Naturally, 
in this form it could not be admitted to conscious- 
ness. Demole's moral ideals would be outraged at 
the thought that the death of another should be 
required by his ambition. In consciousness, this 
feeling of pleasure was substituted by a feeling of 
great satisfaction that he had experienced so inter- 
esting an event which he might investigate psy- 

Shall we rest content with the results we have 
so far attained? We can avail ourselves of two 
minor but striking features of Demole's story which 
will lead even closer to definite insight into the psy- 
chogenesis of his premonition. 

Demole offers two bits of data: first, his in- 
stant of sudden conviction, and second, an error in 
thinking which he reports as an afterthought to the 
first phenomenon. At this point I must remind you 
of the rule in the technique of dream interpretation 
that such afterthoughts usually contain the most im- 
portant part of the dream, and that they often pro- 
vide the key to the complete interpretation. The 
dream behaves just like many women, who stow the 
most important part of their letter into the post- 
script. Is it likely that this is true also of Demole's 
account? You will recall what was in this after- 



thought : Demole remarks that he had made an er- 
ror in describing to himself the patient Larin as 
given to bed-wetting. In trying to explain this error 
he cited external circumstances such as the location 
of the rooms, and he would have us believe that this 
is the only motivation for the error. But we think 
that this sort of interchange has deeper psychologi- 
cal roots and that such conditions as similar rooms 
and so forth do not cause it — although they may 
facilitate its occurrence. When we have found what 
motivated such errors, we will perhaps have found 
the best point of departure for the total explanation. 
Let us recall also, without laying stress on it, that 
psychoanalysis discovered that infantile enuresis and 
adult ambition are closely connected. This question 
was referred to in a passage of the Psychopatkology 
of Everyday Life, which Demole had just finished 
reading the day before his experience. 

There is another point from which we might 
attack our analysis, one which had at first escaped 
my attention. We are indebted to the attentiveness 
of Theodor Reik, who pointed it out and gave it ana- 
lytic evaluation. He draws our attention to the 
names which occurred to Demole immediately after 
the mysterious wave of conviction: Vaschide — 
James — Swedenborg — Freud. It is noteworthy that 
later on two of these names were omitted. After 
the young doctor had received confirmation of his 
premonition he describes his feelings: "I hold my 
breath, then breathe deeply again. I feel pleased that 



this is such an interesting case, Freud . . . Va- 

There was a significant motive, Reik believes, 
for the selection of those names. Indeed, there is a 
motive behind the repetition of only two of them. 
What was it? 

To further our analysis, Reik refers us to an- 
other point. In Demole's mind the words Nicoud 
and Larin seem to stand for some sort of parallel 
to the words Vaschide and Freud. Let us recall 
something that Flournoy had observed, for that may 
help us to get at the roots of this subterranean rela- 
tion. Why does Demole, in his perplexity, use the 
word peche, sinned, erred? He asks himself where 
and how did he commit a psychological sin ? The ex- 
pression pecher is appropriate and its use is justi- 
fied only if an unconscious evil wish stands behind 
it In truth, such a strong wish does exist. Demole 
wishes the death of Larin, in order that he may have 
a chance to speak with the professor and gratify 
his ambitious wish to accompany him to Paris. But 
this same ambition may strive after a more lasting 
and higher aim. 

Reik's further remarks proceed from the fact 
that Demole had just finished reading the Psycho- 
pathology of Everyday Life. Reik also makes the 
supposition that the young investigator may have 
had, among other feelings, an ambitious desire to 
accomplish similar triumphs in science. 


The parallel : 

Nicoud . . . Larin 
Vaschide . . . Freud 

becomes more lucid to us if we assume that Demole 
has combined the two last-named psychologists with 
the two patients, forming, out of four, two com- 
posite persons. The process is sufficiently familiar to 
us from our dream interpretations. Vaschide, who 
like Nicoud had recently died, becomes amalga- 
mated with Nicoud into one person in the uncon- 
scious of Demole. Perhaps the association between 
the two is facilitated by a similarity in sound; De- 
mole was well acquainted with the given name of 
Vaschide, Nicolas, a name whose first syllable 
sounds like that of Nicoud. 

Freud becomes, in the same manner, one with 
Larin, who is soon to die. But the ambitious wish 
stirred up by the reading of the Psychopathology is 
directed to the death of the Viennese psychologist, 
who like the earlier Vaschide stands in the way of 
Demole's ambitions. This hypothesis gains force 
when we hear what emotions he bestows on the liv- 
ing and the dead patients. Nicoud is no longer in- 
teresting, he is finished; Larin, on the contrary, is 
interesting because he is going to die. "Le malade 
pendant sa vie est done l'object d'une preoccupa- 
tion, d'un interet, il est charge de l'affect et a 1'au- 
topsie il y a une abreaction, comme dirait Freud." 

Vaschide (Nicoud) who opposed the ambitions 

[85 3 


of Demole is dead. Now the feeling which has been 
lavished on him is directed towards Freud (Larin); 
he must die also so that Demole's ambition may have 
free rein. This unconscious substitution is covered 
up by another wish, one which attains to conscious- 
ness and which is impelled also by Demole's ambi- 
tion: Larin shall die and his autopsy will give me a 
chance to speak to the professor about the trip to 
Paris. From this standpoint, the expression "sin" 
is altogether appropriate ; it was chosen by Demole's 
psyche to express his unconscious death wish. 

But what inner associations of Demole's can 
have linked together two such people as Freud and 
Vaschide, who are opposite poles in respect to both 
personality and significance? This question can be 
answered if we think of all four names which oc- 
curred to Demole: Vaschide, James, Swedenborg, 
Freud. The bearers of these four names have some- 
thing in common, for they all have been concerned 
— though each after a quite different fashion — with 
the clarification of dark psychological phenomena 
(superstition, omnipotence of thought, telepathy). 
The last section of the Psyckopathology of Every- 
day Life deals with such subjects, and Demole had 
just finished reading the book. When later on these 
thoughts are continued, only the two names of Va- 
schide and Freud are retained. We may surmise 
that the two psychologists are closer to the heart 
of Dr. Demole than are the two philosophers. 

Now we perceive the significance of the attri- 


bute gateux with which Demole had characterized 
Nicoud correctly and Larin incorrectly. If our in- 
terpretation is valid, then this fact must fit into the 
explanation. Reik recommends that we consider the 
figurative as well as the literal significance of the 
concept. "Both patients soiled their beds. Vaschide 
and Freud, who are composite figures behind which 
appear Nicoud and Larin, soil their science." This, 
then, would betoken passionate opposition to Freud. 
Demole earlier directed his hostile and denigrating 
criticism primarily at Vaschide and his views on 
telepathy. Later, after he reads the Psychopathology 
of Everyday Life, this line of feeling and associa- 
tion is erroneously applied to Freud, as was the 
designation gateux to Larin, Later on, when he 
amends his error, the correction extends also to the 
figure hidden behind poor Larin. The impression 
that Freud's book made on Demole was not of one 
piece. Demole's attitude toward the founder of psy- 
choanalysis must be regarded as ambivalent. Freud's 
book aroused in him mixed feelings of admiration 
and scorn. Dr. Demole tries to fight down the strong 
favorable impression Freud's book has made on 
him; he enlists the aid of the epithet-association 
"Vaschide." He, the man educated in exact science, 
criticizes Freud's investigations by scornfully com- 
paring them to Vaschide's telepathic discoveries. 
Both investigators are "gateux"; they dishonor 
their science. The very word gateux, however, is 
frequently used as a circumlocution for a much more 



bitter epithet. It is used as an allusion to the fact 
that so many inmates of the madhouse usually soil 
their beds. In French, therefore, the word gateux 
is equivalent to "demented." Such a criticism of 
Vaschide and Freud surely was far from Demole's 
conscious intention. But that does not exclude the 
great probability that unconsciously this was what 
the word signified. 

Let me supplement these observations of Reik's 
with a few sentences. When we detect the psychic 
forces and counterforces which determined the gen- 
esis of Dr. Demole's premonition, we also discover 
that Flournoy's hypothesis of an "antimystical dis- 
position" has a certain amount of truth. At first 
glance there appear certain things which speak 
against this: first of all Demole's concern with 
Swedenborg, Vaschide, and others who were stu- 
dents of extrasensory matters — and secondly, a 
passage in the letter to Flournoy. Here he says: 
"Tout petit deja, ce qui touche a l'ame, au mystere 
religieux, me tourmentait sans cesse." But why 
"tourmenter," "to torment"? He evidently was at 
pains to defend himself against his antimystical 
inclinations. As we have seen, he was partially sue* 

This early interest in religious and mystical 
questions and the later strenuous defense against 
all mystical hypotheses has visibly influenced the 
account Demole gives of his strange experience. 
Onlv consider the way in which he has used the 



method of psychoanalysis. When, after the sudden 
emergence of the conviction, his mind reverted to 
the reading of the Psycho pathology of Everyday 
Life, his thought was: "Freud . . . unconscious 
. . . quickly, I must analyze myself." And he did 
attempt it, but the psychic countercurrent was too 
strong, and so he was prevented from penetrating 
deeper than the superficial level. He remained satis- 
fied with an explanation which betrayed his antago- 
nism to the content of the Psychopathology. For he 
had availed himself only of factors that psycho- 
analysis designates as propitious, not as motivat- 
ing. Such factors are the dreamy state after awaken- 
ing, the absent-mindedness, and the associations of 
sound which facilitate slips in speech and mistakes 
in reading. He was thus obliged to overlook the 
deeper psychic motivation of his premonition, how 
it had served as a wish-fulfillment of his ambition. 
But it was just this desire which made him picture 
the end of the persons whose existence stood in the 
way of his secret wishes. Larin was the most imme- 
diate and least- valued representative of this line of 
"obstructions" whom his ambition, by force of the 
omnipotence of thought, had removed from the path 
and relegated to the autopsy table. The poor Larin 
had the honor of being the symbol of all the others 
in his consciousness. Behind him stand the writers 
and thinkers whom he had rejected in anger, and 
possibly his direct superiors. And behind these there 
is the dreamer himself, whose guilt-feeling has 



found his desire out and condemns him for his am- 

The psychic conditions and motivation behind 
this experience which Dr. Demole has shared with 
us in his stimulating essay have now become fairly 
intelligible. To close our little analysis, may we ex- 
press this wish: that the esteemed author under- 
stand it is no disgrace to anyone if such secret mo- 
tives are discovered in him, but that very often it is 
such motives which produce the inadequacy of the 
attempt at explanation. 


I have already said that this reconstruction 
makes no claims to be an exact, word-for-word re- 
production of Freud's lecture of November, 1913. 
It is open to the same criticism that any attempt of 
this sort might meet. It would be incorrect, how- 
ever, to accuse it of attributing to Freud words he 
did not utter. I have, rather, restored here words 
which I had borrowed from him (for my essay). 
Such criticism of text aside, I trust that everyone 
interested in psychoanalysis will be glad that this 
beautiful analysis, a perfect jewel of Freud's ana- 
lytic observation of detail and interpretative tech- 
nique, is rescued from oblivion. The future biogra- 
pher of Freud and the historian of psychoanalysis 
will find this lecture valuable as a forerunner of 
those preserved in the first two chapters of this book. 
Those who have followed the development of 



Freud's ideas will be interested in comparing the 
views expressed here with the later ones. 

After the war, Dr. Demole appeared once as 
a guest at a meeting of the Psychoanalytic Society 
in Vienna. I had the pleasure of presenting him to 
Professor Freud who, after some difficulty, recalled 
his name and the essay. I do not know whether De- 
mole visited Freud, It was then that the young phy- 
sician, to his surprise, learned for the first time that 
his article in the Archives de Psychologie had once 
been made the subject of an analytic discussion.* 

Let me conclude with some psychological com- 
ments on Freud's interpretation and on the history 
of this lecture. It seems quite striking that Freud 
had not observed the parallelism — Nicoud — Larin — 
Vaschide — Freud — in Demole's thought processes. 
I explain it in this way: that this parallelism re- 
vealed the unconscious death wish against Freud 
himself in a veiled, but none the less analytically 
recognizable form. The thought of his own death 
(though later on it held no more terror for him) 
had inhibited his noticing the significant parallel, 
which ordinarily would not have escaped him. It did 
not occur to him that Dr. Demole's unconscious am- 
bition was directed at the goal of somehow equaling 
Freud's achievements. This relation to himself acted 

* Naturally, it is not possible to clear up the motives behind 
Freud's misspelling of the doctor's name in his letter to me 
(Demolle instead of Demole), I venture the guess that Freud 
unconsciously had in mind the Berlin sexologist. Dr. Albert Moll, 
whose ignorant attacks on psychoanalysis had annoyed him. 

[91] ' 


to hinder his analysis of this aspect of Demote' s ex- 

The shrewd reader will detect that certain psy- 
chological conditions made just this aspect of the 
case most pointed to the writer. Unconscious wishes 
and ambitious strivings similar to those of Dr. De- 
mole — and ones which later were brought to con- 
sciousness — attracted the attention of the writer to 
the presence of that parallelism which hides the re- 
pressed tendency. 

I think it likely that it was this unconscious ref- 
erence to his own death that made Freud object to 
my suggestion that he publish the lecture himself, 
There is another consideration, that his delicacy and 
tact forbade his publishing an article in which he 
played the main role as the object of another's un- 
conscious rivalry. 

The final sentence of the lecture (which he 
added to my original essay) shows with what great 
understanding he was able to treat the signs of this 
ambition in others. 

When Freud insisted that I should make use 
of his lecture and publish it in the form of an essay, 
he surely intended that the beautiful analytic ma- 
terial should be saved. Why he should assign this 
task to me in particular — that is a question of the 
obscure interplay of unconscious impulses between 
two people. The great man was not blind to the silly 
and presumptuous unconscious wishes that dwelt in 
his young disciple (I was twenty-five at the time), 



wishes which betrayed themselves by the particular 
attention paid to that neglected aspect of the case. 
But Freud smilingly shut his eyes to these wishes. 
This time, as so often before and since, he gave tes- 
timony of his benevolence and humanity. 






Ever since he perceived the contradiction be- 
tween sexual drives and cultural interests, Freud 
felt compelled to attempt a critical evaluation of our 
civilization. But at that time he did not care to pub- 
lish his views. During this early period of his dawn- 
ing understanding of the psychic forces which de- 
termine human destinies, his works show only a few 
traces of this interest. But these scattered comments 
reveal the same spirit, the same intellectual bold- 
ness, that characterized his entire life and work, If 
we study them attentively, we shall see that ideas 
which had previously touched the periphery of his 
work slowly groped their way toward the center. 
Concepts at first dim or not yet articulate were later 
comprehended more keenly, clearly, and consciously. 

It has not been my aim here to present the 
whole range of cultural-philosophical criticism to be 
found in Freud's writings. The following chapters 
deal only with Freud's papers on this subject in the 
1927-1930 period. Most of these critical essays were 
lectures given during those years in the Vienna and 
Berlin Psychoanalytical Associations. 


The last writings of Freud have caused many who 
call themselves his followers serious and even 
painful embarrassment. It was hard to assign them 
their proper place in scientific literature; they did 
not quite fit in. They had little to do with the actual 
theory of the neuroses. Instead, they were an un- 
usual sort of interpretation and criticism of occi- 
dental civilization, reflections on culture undertaken 
from the same point of view as that of Freud's study 
of the psychoneuroses. The disarming naivete of 
some critics led them to believe that the only bond 
linking the one group of Freud's works with this 
new group was the identity of the author. They did 
not recognize that the bond was wrought within the 
mind of this personality who was accustomed to 
pursue his ideas to whatever end they led. 

But it was not only the matter of these prob- 
lems that aroused dismay. The manner of their 
treatment also was disquieting. It was indubitably 
true that in these last writings Freud was far more 
subjective than he ever had been. Here he betrayed 
something of his personal position on the great prob- 
lems of this age and of the ages. This was quite dif- 



ferent from the impersonal, objective attitude of 
former years, when his eyes were fixed exclusively 
on the subject of his research. Now he dared to ex- 
press views that were personal and untraditional. 
No doubt scientists will emphatically declare that 
they have nothing 1 to do with all this ; they will in- 
sist that the scientist cannot, as a scientist, presume 
to express personal opinions on the relations of hap- 
piness and civilization. But Freud does not choose 
to keep his beliefs to himself. The Future of an Illu- 
sion is substantially the confessio fidei of an unbe- 
liever. Civilisation and Its Discontents contains 
something of the philosophy of a scientist who gen- 
erally kept himself detached from philosophic ques- 
tions. We remember how Freud was upbraided by 
Abderhalden and other clinicians after the publica- 
tion of The Future of an Illusion. That reproof was 
reiterated even more sternly with regard to Civilisa- 
tion and Its Discontents. Civilization and happiness 
— these are not fit subjects of conversation for prac- 
tical physicians. 

To be sure, Freud's subjectivity has a quality 
uniquely its own ; even in personalized criticism the 
supra personal is manifest. There is mingled with 
our feeling that Freud is personally concerned an 
impression that he nevertheless approaches these 
problems from a certain distance, with a certain 
longer view. The essence of his subjectivity appears 
to be the silent vow not to concede to tradition as 
an argument for anything. His followers have 


"civilization and its discontents" 

learned from his example and his work to combine 
with all scientific work a certain disrespect for the 
conservative spirit of science. 

In another way, also, the character of these last 
writings is a departure from the earlier work. There 
still prevails the deep regard for detail, but along 
with it there is a strange interest in the larger per- 
spectives. The microscope often is laid aside for the 
telescope. An adage from the Makamen of Hariri 
is testimony of the justness, nay the necessity of 
such a transition : 

"Too close to the eyes is no better than too far — 
Thou seest not through thyself nor seest the uni- 
versal star." 

While clarity still pervades the work, Freud 
now indulges in contemplation. The observer in 
Freud is still dominant, but the speculative thinker 
shares the throne. Knowledge is still the goal of all 
his striving, but now wisdom will be included in the 

It may be objected that this appears so, simply 
because these last essays treat themes so widely re- 
moved from the earlier writings. After all, one can- 
not treat the struggle in and toward civilization in 
the same spirit and with the same methodical and 
impersonal objectivity as, say, a case of hysteria or 
obsessional neurosis. All this apparent change is 
merely an adjustment, analogous to the eye's power 
of accommodation to longer or shorter distances. 



This objection merits some attention, although 
it is generally uttered with excessive triumph and 
belligerency. But as an explanation it still does not 
tell us why Freud in his later years should accom- 
modate his vision to dwell upon just these particular 
problems — after he had always devoted himself to 
details, even to minutiae. Granted that the changed 
subject matter demands a different method, does 
this explain why the subject matter changed? 

All the ideas, theories, insights, and critical 
estimates in these latter essays appear to have 
sprung into being full-grown, as Pallas Athena 
sprang from the head of Zeus. All the wisdom which 
is so astonishing to us does not seem to have been 
won laboriously, but rather to have emerged mys- 
teriously from some hidden source. As a matter of 
fact, it was not won in the ordinary way by solid, 
scholarly diligence and taxing meditation. Freud's 
discoveries are finds. But that expression does not 
quite hit the mark. His "finds" matured silently for 
so long and at so slow a pace that when, at last, they 
"occurred" to their discoverer, they were practically 
mature. These cool draughts arose from a deep well; 
it was long before they brimmed over the edge. 

After every book of Freud's we are left with 
the impression that he sees things as though he 
were beholding them for the first time. And there is 
truth in this, for Freud frequently contemplated 
things with such patient intensity that at last it was 
as though be recovered the first vision of them, be- 


"civilization and its discontents" 

cause he had seen something profoundly new in 


This is true of the thoughts in Civilisation and 

Its Discontents; they seem to have been born the 

very day they were written down. Yet they are 

neither of today nor yesterday. They originated far 

back, and were merely reviewed once more yesterday 

and today. The vision itself is not recent; only the 



We have suggested that in The Future of an 
Illusion the author at first intended to survey civ- 
ilization in general and then to look in turn at each 
of the illusions the evolution of civilization has en- 
gendered. Freud has not followed this intention in 
this new book, but he has done something similar. 
He has written a fugue on the theme of civilization 
and human happiness, a fugue in allegro tempo at 
whose end we must cry out, "Maestoso!" 

The introduction to the book follows most 
closely the original plan. I find it the weakest part 
of the essay. It only half succeeds, compared to the 
introductions to Freud's other books — which is to 
say, it does not measure up to the very highest 
standard. We wonder whether this section was ac- 
tually first meant for an introduction to this work. 
Perhaps it was placed here after the essay had al- 
ready been written. However that may be, it would 
be just as significant independently of the book. The 
relation of this introduction to the main body is a 



very tenuous one — if we look beneath the external 
connectives for the essential inner relationships. As 
an introduction it conveys no hint of what is to fol- 
low. It is more of a prologue that has, at best, a 
vague kinship to the drama itself than a prelude in- 
troducing the action. 

Perhaps this separateness of the introduction 
has its reason in the point of departure. The section 
was stimulated by remarks of two friends of the 
author's. The first asserts that the real source of reli- 
giousness is a feeling of something eternal, an 
"oceanic" feeling, as it were. This feeling, the 
friend declared, had animated himself and many 
others. The other friend declared that by certain 
yoga practices like controlled breathing he could stir 
new sensations, universal emotions, in himself and 
could arrive, in this ecstasy, at knowledge hitherto 
hidden from him. 

We may ask: are such statements worthy of 
being made the cornerstone of the whole structure? 
We have heard the sentiments that they imply more 
often than ancient platitudes. Freud is not really un- 
critical of these statements of his friends, but since 
he is using them only as points d'appui he might 
have made a better choice. The interest he lavishes 
on them is dictated more by friendship than by their 
substance. He is "quite willing" to grant that many 
men may experience such an oceanic feeling. I my- 
self am rather skeptical. I suspect that what that 
friend is describing is more a sentiment than a feel- 


"civilization and its discontents" 

ing. And then, there is a significant lack of connec- 
tion between the statements of the two friends and 
the subsequent statements of the third friend, who 
quotes them. 

What is the vital point of this section? For it 
does not lie in the discussion of the oceanic sensa- 
tion, wherein this rather questionable phenomenon 
is interpreted as part of the evolution of the ego 
consciousness. A bypath turns out to be more re- 
warding, leading to the problem of the preserva- 
tion of the psychic content. Here, too, Freud ex- 
tends hints rather than elaborated theories, sugges- 
tions of how to find the solution rather than the so- 
lution itself, doubts that are fruitful rather than 
barren certainties. The well-educated fools of all 
countries do not think much of such endeavors; they 
are fond of certainty in science. They look upon 
doubt as a menace to the order of things, human and 

The telling point of this section is reached in 
the course of this digression. Freud compares the 
phenomena of the psyche with the changing face of 
a city, where layer is buried beneath layer, but all 
are constantly present. It is not the first time that 
Freud remarks upon the permanence in change, the 
change in permanence of the psychic processes. 
Freud's analogy approaches most closely and sensi- 
tively to a description of this phenomenon. Yet 
something is still wanting. It is concrete, and yet it 
ends in abstraction. It is like trying to shape a ball 

[ I03 ] 


out of water by holding 1 it in the hollow of the hand. 
It is too much, and yet not enough. The edifices of 
the "eternal city" which succeed one another and 
also exist coevally are impossible to conceive, 
though only such a conception can clarify the na- 
ture of the psyche for us. We require a symbol that 
will enable us to see what we have at hand as though 
it were far away, and to see what has vanished as 
a present reality. Freud's analogy can be fully ap- 
preciated only by someone who has also attempted 
to express by symbols the character of the psyche- 
let us say by the popular analytical symbol of a pal- 
impsest. I believe— although I may be quite astray 
— that this analogy of Freud's was prompted by an 
unconscious memory of speeches of Giacomo Bonis 
and Nicole Langeliers in Anatole France's Sur la 
Pierre Blanche. 

What is important, however, is that this mat- 
ter diverts us from the main theme of the essay 
rather than leads us toward it. Apparently Freud 
recognizes this, for he says explicitly that he would 
like to devote more time to it, even though he has 
"insufficient reason," Amidst the straight, towering 
lines of Freud's works, this introduction, for all its 
interest and significance, is a piece of flimsy archi- 


In the first section Freud meditates upon the 
possibilities of happiness within civilization. He 
shows us the sorry character of the happiness which 


"civilization and its discontents" 

men win by so much labor. He shows how civiliza- 
tion threatens happiness with heavy levies and re- 
strictions. Then he demonstrates how by its very 
nature happiness is a fleeting thing, since it "springs 
from the sudden gratification of long-restrained 
needs and is by its nature possible only as an episodic 
phenomenon." The discussion, in its wealth of 
themes, is almost a rhapsody; but by and by the 
deep bare theme of it emerges — the understanding 
that the pathways to happiness are multitudinous, 
but they are all alike in their failure to reach the 
goal. For no path leads to supreme happiness. And 
yet this matter of happiness is a pressing problem 
of libido economy which everyone must solve in his 
own fashion. 

Freud sums up the psychological means that 
men employ either to escape pain or to attain happi- 
ness. He names three opiates for pain: diversions 
which make us mock our life; substitute gratifica- 
tions which make us degrade our life ; and intoxi- 
cants which make us insensible to our life. ("They 
thrice showed me how, when our lives are at dusk, 
we fritter and sleep and sing our lives away, in 
threefold mockery." — "Dreifach haben sie m%r 
geseigt, wenn das Leben uns nachtet, wie man's 
verraucht, verschlaft, vergeigt and es dreifach ver- 
achtet." *) 

Nowhere in his essay is the tone of the scientist 
and detached observer overwhelmed by that of the 

* Lenau, Die Drei Zigeuner. 



prophetic leader or the philosophic counselor. Freud 
remains objective and tranquil, no matter how 
poignant the subject. At times he seems even delib- 
erately impassive when he is writing of matters 
that rend each man at the heart. There is one single 
note that sounds a somewhat didactic overtone: "As 
the prudent merchant avoids putting all his eggs in 
one basket, so wisdom may advise us not to expect 
all gratification from a single striving." This admo- 
nition, so reminiscent of the Greek concept of So- 
phrosyne, is a self-evident truth — but Freud knows 
perfectly well how vain an ideal it is. For it seems 
that each new generation must have its own illusions 
and plunge of itself into ruin, as though no man 
had a heritage of sad experience. Man's earthly tra- 
vail seems ever the same and youth never learns 
from the past generation. The knowledge and values 
of the past are drowned in the tempest of the pres- 
ent. And the wiser elders who are satiated with life 
cannot understand the young who are all hungry for 
life — and this is only one instance of the reciprocal 
lack of understanding upon which society is ever 

He reflects upon sexual love, its content of hap- 
piness, and its promise of sorrow, a promise which 
is always fulfilled. Unquestionably the relation be- 
tween man and woman has been a great incentive 
to cultural evolution. But it is equally clear that 
there is a painful contradiction between civilization 
and love. As this contradiction is sharpened, it hap- 


"civilization and its discontents" 

pens that women set themselves in opposition to the 
cultural stream and there is exacted from men ever 
greater sublimation. ("Souvent la femme nous in- 
spire les grandes choses," says Dumas fils, bowing 
low ; but drawing himself up he adds, "qu'elle nous 
empechera d'accomplir.") 

That other solace of us wayfarers, that casual 
companion called friendship, hardly comes in here. 
Freud never quotes with approval the aphorism, 
"Call no man fortunate till he is dead." It would 
seem that Freud has no proper respect for the bliss 
that reigns after the sacrament of extreme unction. 

Freud now takes up another theme: he con- 
siders closely that mechanism of pain and sorrow 
we commonly call civilization. We encounter here a 
remarkable paradox. Civilization, our weapon and 
our shelter, which we have devised against pain, in- 
stead has become a house of suffering. It is at once 
medicine and poison. Here, in the most succinct 
form, Freud presents a kind of history of culture, 
a history of the achievements of civilization and of 
the losses civilization has inflicted. There are few 
things in literature comparable to this panorama of 
the evolution of culture. Here are a few pages re- 
plete with enough suggestions to occupy a genera- 
tion of researchers. It embraces the past and the 
present and reaches forth to comprehend the future. 




Freud propounds the theory that civilization 
brings about a lessening of sexuality. One reason 
for this is that so much vital force is expended by 
men in conquering and subduing aggressive in- j 
stincts. And at this point Freud incidentally gives idTy 
his estimate of that movement whose philosophy^ 
rests upon the belief that all unhappiness of civ- »w 
ilized man comes from the institution of private * 
property and that the abolition of that institution 
will bring about a paradise on earth. 

Naturally, Freud recognizes that to abolish 
private property will be to remove one of the in- 
struments of man's aggressiveness, "certainly an 
important instrument, and certainly not the most 
important." But he does not abandon himself to the 
simple-minded optimism that all evil in the indi- 
vidual and the community can be eradicated by re- 
moving this single institution. He who has seen 
many human lives unfolded before him cannot 
share an uninspiring faith in a new world order 
as the last and only salvation. Organizations for 
the fostering of human happiness do not seem too 
promising, while the organized effort to make men 
unhappy has been successful in all ages and lands. 
Man is like the little evergreen tree that always 
longed for different leaves ; and I have no doubt that 
it will still want different leaves even after all its 
foliage is red. 

[ 108 ] 

"civilization and its discontents" 

When Freud described the psychological basis 
of communism as a "groundless illusion" he cer- 
tainly lost the sympathy of many, and many worthy, 
men. It seems to be his fate, however, to find his 
views, at any given time, in opposition to those 
views which have become popular among his con- 
temporaries. The theory of repression had just be- 
gun to enjoy widespread acceptance, a new era was 
dawning when even physicians began to accept the 
theory of the sexual etiology of the neuroses, and 
then Freud upset the applecart. He undermined the 
confidence that many were slowly beginning to con- 
fer on him by declaring that religion was a kind of 
illusion. Especially those men who had been reared 
in the natural sciences could not forgive him for 
the disappointment he had been to them. For most 
freethinkers nowadays are believers in the deepest 
sense of the word. It is a sign of the true natural 
scientist that he confines himself strictly to the sub- 
ject matter of his studies. He stoutly rejects any 
attempts to form hypotheses transcending empirical 
knowledge. And just as stoutly he persists in his 
unshaken belief in the Absolute. At the present time 
this seems to be the only possible basis for a free and 
unprejudiced science. 

Upon the publication of The Future of an Illu- 
sion great indignation raged, especially in medical 
circles. The priests of the various religions were tol- 
erant and quite calm about the whole matter, but a 
number of our medical authorities declared that 



Freud was trampling into the dust everything men 
hold sacred. There may be a great many doubting 
priests, but after reading the criticisms of Freud's 
book we shall no longer question the immaculate 
religiousness of many psychiatrists and neurolo- 

The communists, who were greatly pleased with 
Freud's conception of religion as superfluous in our 
social order, had already taken Freud unto them- 
selves. And then he intimated that he doubted 
whether the abolition of private property meant the 
dawn of happiness for all mankind. He did not have 
long to wait before feeling their anger. He is des- 
tined to please nobody. Anatole France remarks, "II 
est dans la nature des vrais sages de f acher le reste 
des hommes." 

Freud is not doctrinaire; he is not unyielding 
and uncompromising. He prefers to be honest. In a 
private conversation which touched on political sub- 
jects he once said that he could not see why people 
must be all red or all black. It was enough if a man 
were flesh-colored. 

Obviously, men do not easily surrender their 
aggressive desires. Freud points to the advantage 
obtained by a smaller cultural group, which can find 
a release for aggressiveness, an emergency exit as 
it were, by attacking outsiders. But such a cultural 
group will also be the victim of the aggressiveness 


"civilization and its discontents" 

of the encircling forces, and its own culture will 
hang in the balance of destruction or advancement. 
Should this group attain power, it is able to carry its 
aggressive instinct into execution and it will per- 
form the great cultural feat of annihilating the out- 
siders. World history shows that every nation upon 
reaching a certain cultural level, was conquered, en- 
slaved, and humbled by another nation, in this way 
partaking of the questionable blessings of a higher 

There are surely other possible ways to tame 
the aggressive energies of mankind, other avenues 
of escape which we have, perhaps, not yet suffi- 
ciently examined. But here, too, society has imposed 
too high an ethical imperative, one which must re- 
main unattained. Any manifestation of human ag- 
gressiveness surely has a just claim to gratification. 
Even the mildest of men, who is worshipped by men 
as their Saviour, did not spare harsh words and even 
drove away with blows the money-changers from 
the temple. What can be required of us ordinary 
mortals? The logical action must be for us to try to 
channelize the aggressive impulses of man rather 
than to extinguish them, since they are always with 
us. Dreamers and optimists adjure men to love one 
another. Yet it is extremely doubtful whether even 
the more moderate advice, "Hate one another less!" 
would evoke any response beyond a purely theoreti- 
cal interest. 



It seems to me there is an intimate connection 
between the fate of sexuality and of aggressiveness 
throughout the evolution of civilization. Aggressive 
tendencies are also enfeebled as a culture ages. This 
is generally true, even though we may encounter a 
great many exceptional cases where aggressiveness 
appears in its primitive force and in its ancient 
forms. At any rate, a mature culture makes pro- 
vision that the aggressive instincts find new and 
more humane forms of expression. We might say 
that a new form of aggression arises, one which has 
been mitigated by civility. 

With the growth and expansion of a culture, 
there is presented another danger besides the grow- 
ing restriction on the impulses. This danger Freud 
called "the psychological misery of the masses." It 
appears as a menace wherever the social union is 
maintained mainly by the members' identification 
with each other, while at the same time leading per- 
sonalities are either absent or deprived of their 
proper due. Let it be emphasized that this respect 
for personality as against the masses has nothing 
to do with the banal question of egoism and altru- 
ism. The example of America shows how false such 
an equation would be. Freud believes that America, 
especially in its present state of culture, stands on 
the brink of that peril. America, in whose slang the 
term "number one" stands for "I," is a terrifying 
example of a poverty of great individuals. Here the 


"civilization and its discontents" 

culture has standardized the people and standard- 
ized their thoughts. 

Solitude is certainly pregnant with sorrow, but 
it is open to question whether community always 
confers happiness. And it is possible to be social 
and yet remain isolated, just as it is possible to be 
alone and yet participate in society. Neurosis tends 
to withdraw men from society ; but perhaps such sol- 
itude is one of the essential conditions of any great 
cultural achievement. Civilization seeks to establish 
ever wider and more encompassing union. But per- 
haps, in its larger sense, civilization is not possible 
without alternation between solitude and com- 
munity. It seems to me that it is one of the requi- 
sites of civilization that men be able to endure soli- 
tude and to welcome it; that they be not forced to 
estimate themselves as a mere component of the 
masses. Perhaps some future age will develop a 
culture of the individual and a culture of the 



While making a study of a special, autono- 
mous aggressive instinct, Freud seizes the opportu- 
nity to review once more the psychoanalytic doctrine 
of the instincts. He pursues this trend until he en- 
counters the opposition of the death instinct and the 
life instinct. Here we come to some of the most in- 
tricate problems about the relationship of the in- 

* This subject is treated at greater length in Chapter XIV. 


stincts to civilization. Freud believes the meaning 
and law of the evolution of culture lies in the strug- 
gle between Eros and Death, the life impulse and the 
destructive instinct. In discussing the means culture 
employs to inhibit the aggressiveness which is its 
foe, Freud alludes to the problem of guilt-feeling — 
that problem which has long been investigated by 
analysts and remains still so obscure. With a won- 
derful richness of thought Freud here traces the 
development of aggressiveness, how it turns against 
the ego, what are the functions of the superego and 
how guilt- feeling differs from repentance. Freud 
does not claim that he has answered all the questions 
of this kind — nor even that he has proposed all the 
questions. He was always averse to disguising the 
flaws in our knowledge by erecting an impressive 

What is the significance of the superego in neu- 
rosis and in the fate of the individual; what is the 
underground relation between defiance and guilt- 
feeling ; how are narcissism and indulgence towards 
one's own instincts bound up? — these are problems 
of the sort. Freud shows us the perpetual and un- 
breakable connection between civilization and guilt- 
feeling; the inevitable swelling of guilt-feeling in the 
course of cultural progress. It impresses us some- 
what like the profound doctrine of original sin. Here 
there is much worth our questioning and much that 
is questionable. We cannot accept all Freud's points 


"civilization and its discontents" 

unreservedly. But even where we feel we have 
grounds for doubts and criticism, we are moved to 
honor the inner logic and sincerity of Freud's ideas. 

This is the picture Freud presents: The in- 
creasing pressure of guilt-feeling drives the indi- 
vidual toward the community. But in living together 
with other men new conflicts arise so that both ag- 
gressiveness and guilt-feeling are further aug- 
mented. It is a vicious circle. Or rather, it is a spiral 
evolution which reproduces the beginnings on a 
higher plane. The end of this development (or the 
new beginning) will probably be marked by the 
downfall of a civilization. What, then, is the' price 
of progress in civilization but the forfeit of happi- 
ness through intensification of guilt- feeling? What 
small happiness remains to civilized man after this 
is perhaps the faith that he, as an individual, has 
helped the many — the joy of personality in the 
service of society. Perhaps that is wisdom's last de- 
cree. To be sure, it is a limited, tremulous and half- 
hearted decree, this word of human wisdom. But 
we know of none better. 

And there remains what Mephisto suggests: 

"Was soil uns denn das ezt/ge Schaffen, 
Geschaffenes su Nichts himvegzuraffen! 
'Das ist vorbei,' was ist daran zu lesen? 
Es ist so gut, als war 1 es nkht gewesen. 
Und treibt sich dock im Kreis, als wenn es ware! 
Ich liebte mir dafur das Ewig-Leere," 



"What good for us this endlessly creating? — 
What is created then annihilating? 
'And now it's past!' Why read a page so twisted? 
"Tis just the same as if it ne'er existed, 
Yet goes in circles round as if it had, however : 
I'd rather choose, instead, the Void forever." * 

The close of the book is optimistic, but only to 
a certain extent. Freud sees the present time as rush- 
ing headlong toward a decision. Having mastery 
over the forces of nature, men now have their hands 
free for destroying each other down to the last man. 
We may now await that eternal Eros to attempt "to 
prevail over his likewise immortal adversary." To 
prevail? Certainly only for a more or less brief 
span. It could not be more than an interlude. Then 
the destructive instinct would once more be con- 
queror, and the old sport would begin again, until, 
at the end, the works of Eros (who is also but "a 
part of that part which once was all") f would 
sink down again into the night and the cold which 
is the future of our planet. Still, this lies in the re- 
mote future, and Freud's optimistic hopes are 
founded on the near future, on our posterity. He is 
quite right when he says that, fundamentally, all of 
us, the wildest revolutionaries as passionately as the 
godliest ones, are praying for consolation which he 
cannot offer. For they all love life ; even when they 

* Faust, Part U, Act V, Translated by Bayard Taylor. 
f "Ein Teil des Teils, der anfangs alles war." Thus Me- 
phisto describes himself in Goethe's Faust. — Translator's note. 


"civilization and its discontents" 

despise and renounce life's gifts they do so out of 
depit amoureux. 

Freud is not one to play the prophet, but the 
close of his book expresses at once a kindly doubt 
and a gentle hope : In dubio mitius. 



I shall not attempt a precis of Freud's essay, but 
rather an interpretation of the main themes. I 
hardly think it valuable to restate Freud's ideas 
here; I shall more or less play the accompaniment 
to his melody. 

When we carefully study Freud's essay, we 
shall become aware of three main division s. The 
first concerns itself with present cultural conditions , 
the second discusses religion, and the third offers a 
p icture of a future culture. W e feel that the first 
division was originally intended to be the outstand- 
ing one — that Freud meant to develop it further. 
One passage seems to confirm this supposition. 

The composition of the whole, proceeding from 
broad problems of civilization to a single cultural 
question, is admirable. Artfully, and yet with utter 
naturalness, everything inexorably centers around 

those probfogS HZJBfifa arp mnst Hpar to thf author. 

There is the eloquent overture, expressing the wish 
that we may get some inkling of the remote destiny 
of our culture. Then follows a passage dealing with 
the general cultural situation, mainly from the psy- 
chological point of view; the consideration of the 
conditions which engender culture; the description 


"the future of an illusion" 

of the psychological requirements of civilization — 
the renunciations, prohibitions, lacks, and compen- 
sations. Finally, Freud indicates what is the most 
significant element for the psychic inventory of a 
culture — its religious ideas. If we prefer to imagine 
this work as a symphony, this introduction repre- 
sents the first movement. Here Freud sets forth a 
comprehensive psychological picture of the present 
state of culture. Sterling clarity and wisdom informs 
this picture, which for us serves the purpose of a 
cross section, disclosing all the strata formations of 
a culture. Totem and Taboo gave us an analytical 
account of the dark origins of our institutions; here 
the institutions themselves are characterized. 

The future may judge this introduction, this 
all-embracing, serene portrayal of our culture, to be 
the most important essay Freud ever wrote. But not 
for the sake of its discussion of religious problems, 
for these will be problems no longer. Critics, fet- 
tered as always to the present, may embroil them- 
selves with Freud's attitude toward religious ques- 
tions. But we can afford to take the longer view. 
Unmoved by opposition from analysts and nonana- 
lysts, we will continue to insist that this rich and 
profound introduction rather than the discussion of 
religion is the most valuable section of Freud's book. 

Let us compare this book with the one preced- 
ing it. Wherein lies the special value of this study 
about lay-analysis? What part of its content will 
be considered its most significant one after twenty 



or fifty years? Perhaps the penetrating discussion 
of the problem and the elucidation of Freud's point 
of view? Not at all. Its significance will lie rather 
in this fact, that the essence of analysis is here rep- 
resented with an impressive clarity never before 
reached. The whole realm has been looked at closely 
by eyes that have not overlooked anything. 

The main section of the new book treats first 
the singular nature of religious ideas. It contains 
nothing with which we are not familiar from other 
writings of Freud. Even the role of infantile help- 
lessness in the genesis of religion is not new, for 
Freud had discussed it previously in "Leonardo da 

What follows is a dialogue, handled with the 
same conversational grace and sharpness that we 
have come to know from personal association with 
Freud. An opponent is introduced who follows the 
author's thought processes and extends or contra- 
dicts them. This opponent and gainsayer is no stran- 
ger to us ; he played the same part in Freud's earlier 
essays. He was not always personified, but he was 
always present. In all his works Freud anticipated 
objecti ons, replied beforehand to arguments, TTris 
alternate examination and self-assertion was a sign 
of his strict self-criticism. 

Let us consider the opponent for a moment. As 
always, the interlocutor is a cultured intellectual 
with the highest moral sentiments, accessible to rea- 
son, and not intolerant of strong emotions. Still, our 


"the future of an illusion" 

impression is that this time Freud has treated his 
opponent somewhat cavalierly. The opponent might 
have raised more cogent objections and questions. 
Freud might have chosen a sounder opponent — say, 
from among the real opponents of his ideas. I could, 
for example, conceive as a really competent oppo- 
nent one of those subtle Catholic priests with whom 
it is a delight to debate. These are men full of life's 
wisdom and gifted with a remarkable intellectual 
sensitivity. They have been pupils of the stern logic 
that derives from Thomas Aquinas. 

At one point in Freud's debate there is no 
longer any basic cleavage between the two oppo- 
nents. Suddenly Freud writes that their disagree- 
ment is not irreconcilable; it will vanish with time. 
He could never have forced such a conclusion in a 
dispute with a priest trained in the dogma. Here the 
end would have been unrelenting disagreement. But 
perhaps Freud deliberately wished to present a cul- 
tured, worldly scholar as the type of his opponent. 
We must not anticipate his intentions. 

But even accepting this type of opponent, the 
discussion still should have taken a different turn. 
The attitude of an intellectual of our times toward 
the religious question is insincere, and it cannot be 
made straightforward through discussion. The cul- 
tured class of mankind, or more strictly, the intel- 
lectual upper class, evince the same shamefacedness 
and evasiveness toward their religious needs that 
they do toward their sexual and economic needs. In- 



deed, in the religious realm these needs are often 
more equivocal, harder to name for what they are. 
The pious man and the freethinker are frequently 
not so far apart as they seem. They have their in- 
sincerity in common. The religious man believes and 
does not reflect too much on his faith. The free- 
thinker does not reflect too much on his lack of faith 
because he does not reflect very much about any- 
thing. We might sum up this strange attitude to- 
ward religion by saying that most educated people 
do not believe in God, but they fear him. Although 
science has proclaimed that God is dead, he lives on 
underground. And this is where scientific analysis 
must begin its work. The corpse must be exhumed 
and we must determine whether it is really dead. 
"Ce sont les morts qu'il faut qu'on tue." There is 
little doubt that official disbelief can live very com- 
fortably alongside of unofficial belief. 

This unconscious insincerity regarding religion 
would naturally alter the course of the conversation. 
The opponent would probably accede to most of 
Freud's arguments and demonstrations, declare that 
he was himself an atheist, and yet cling uncon- 
sciously to the faith he had denied. It would be es- 
pecially hard to reason with him just because he 
apparently shares our views. Similarly, many obses- 
sional neurotics will accept fully all the results of 
analysis, but will nevertheless cling to their illness. 

Freud assures us that he himself considers his 
book quite harmless. He warns, however, of the 


"the future of an illusion" 

fierce reactions it will call forth and of the discred- 
iting effect it will have upon psychoanalysis. Since 
the appearance of The Future of an Illusion I have 
heard all kinds of objections to it, and none of them 
has been from the religious point of view. I am pre- 
pared to refute them all, but I shall spare the reli- 
gious objections, for these contradict themselves. 
The first assertion is that religion is unimportant 
today and that Freud exaggerates its importance for 
the human psyche. I do not believe this. I think the 
importance of religion in the psyche has not yet been 
sufficiently appreciated or investigated by psycho- 
analysis. Freud is still arguing in the spirit of the 
eighteenth century, these objectors claim; his rea- 
soning continues the direct tradition of the Enlight- 
enment. It is all so old-fashioned. Note that here, 
for once, psychoanalysis is attacked for lacking 
originality. quae mutatio rerum! 

Freud has, of course, emphatically indicated 
that views similar to his have been the common prop- 
erty of many great men. Nevertheless, that objection 
is all at sea. What a difference there is between Vol- 
taire's passionate "Ecrasez I'lnfame!" the trenchant, 
rationalist phrases of the French Encyclopedists, 
and the quiet, objective argumentation of Freud. 
And where, in the literature of the Enlightenment, 
do we find a study of the psychologic source of reli- 
gious ideas? Where do we find an analytic explana- 
tion of them and an appreciation of the human 
meaning behind them? 



Like the former objection, also the second is 
voiced by people who are apparently completely in 
agreement with Freud's religious views. And they 
accept Freud's presentation, but immediately they 
point to the metaphysical value of religion; they 
claim that it contains transcendental truths in sym- 
bolic form ; that it expresses the Absolute. 

This argument brings back through the window 
what has already been thrown out the front door; 
for what here appears as a transcendental absolute 
is nothing but disguised, emasculated, and intellec- 
tualized religion, in its true form an object of shame. 
Moreover, it is easy and convenient to make state- 
ments about the transcendental because they need no 
proof and by their very nature admit of none. These 
objectors know everything about the transcendental 
that has ever been known ; that is, nothing at all. 

The last objection grants the logic of Freud's 
reasoning but challenges his right to extend to the 
collective psyche conclusions that have been derived 
from individual analysis. Now, psychoanalysts have 
often discussed this methodological question. What 
precautions are necessary in translating the results 
of individual research to the realm of folk psychol- 
ogy? What limitations must be imposed on such 
translation and what heuristic justification does it 
nevertheless have? We certainly do not wish to over- 
look methodology. But it is gradually becoming clear 
that up to the present methodology has always been 
the best scientific excuse for doing no scientific work 


"the future of an illusion" 

at all. Nowadays it is possible to devote oneself to 
restful vacancy of mind without danger of re- 
proach ; for it is easy to impress the philosophic lay- 
man with the declaration that one is busy with con- 
siderations of methodology. It has become a pretext 
against all unequivocal statements. Methodology is 
the most convenient haven for intellectual sterility. 

I have expounded these objections because they 
represent the position towards religious problems of 
many cultured persons. What is common to all of 
them is the sidetracking of the main question. More- 
over, we see that these objections all correspond to 
typical defense reactions that we meet in analysis. 
The first, which holds that religion is unimportant, 
is the exact counterpart of the minimizing defense 
mechanism, the reduction to triviality. The second, 
which insinuates metaphysics to the fore, corre- 
sponds to dual conviction in obsessional neurosis. 
The third objection, which emphasizes the method- 
ologic point of view, represents the forepleasure 
stage of intellectual activity. This is a sort of Ham- 
let compulsion which inhibits all real scientific work 
by continuous delay of action. But all these objec- 
tions show the common feature of the first ; accept- 
ance of Freud's reasoning. None of those who 
raised these objections took issue from the stand- 
point of the believer; but every one of them uncon- 
sciously was a believer. 

To my mind, then, the enemy acts, not so much 


by frank resistance to Freud's essay, but otherwise; 
paradoxically, by that very preliminary intellectual 
acceptance which is his facade, a fortress behind 
which resistance can develop. A concession is made 
so that it will not be necessary to draw the logical 
conclusions. This implies that the book will not alter 
the mental indolence and inner insincerity which 
dominate our society. 

Since we are in the midst of considering reli- 
gious problems, it will not be inappropriate if I re- 
mind you of the miracle of Saint Anthony's fish ser- 
mon. It is recounted in the Book of Saints, and we 
also have it in the simple, lovely verse of our great 
collection of German folk poetry, Des Knaben 
Wunderhorn. The saint finds the church empty and 
goes to the fishes to preach to them. The carp come 
swimming up, and the pike, the cod, the crab. The 

". . . as a rule 
A slow-enough fool, 
Rose from the depths in a hurry 
To hear the saint's story. 
Each and every word 
Delighted the cod. 
Fish great and fish wee, 
Of high and low degree, 
Turned their heads to the east 
Like reasoning beasts." 

And then the close, so powerfully and bitterly 
expressed in Mahler's F Major chords : 


"the future of an illusion" 

"The sermon now ends ; 
Each on his way wends — 
The pike remain thievish, 
The eels much love lavish, 
Upside-down walks the crab, 
Carp eats all he can grab — 
The sermon was nice 
No one thinks of it twice. 
Each goes on as he begun 
And my story is done." * 

There is another point we must raise. Freud 
emphasizes that psychoanalysis as a method of re- 
search is impartial and that the defenders of reli- 
gion may also use it to determine the affective sig- 
nificance of religion. Certainly we will all agree to 
this. But analysis depends upon who practices it; 
and the situation is considerably changed when we 
are attempting to analyze the content of truth in 
religion. When a priest practices analysis, he does 
not cease to be a spiritual shepherd, and gradually 
the original aims are displaced, the ideational base 
shifts and contradictory tasks arise. When this hap- 

* ". . . sons! langsame Boten "Die Predigt geendet, 

Steigen eilig votn Grund, Ein jeder sich wend el. 

Zu hbren die sen Mund. Die Hechte bleiben Diebe, 

Kein Predigt niemalen Die Aale viel lieben, 

Den Stockfisch so g'fallen, Die Krebs' geh'n surucke. 

Fisch' grosse, Fisch' kleine Die Stockfisch bleib'n dicke, 

Vornehm und gemeine, Die Karpsen viel fressen, 

Erheben die Kopfe Die Predigt vergessen. 

Wie versland'ge Cesckopfe." Die Predigt hat gefallen. 

Sie bleiben wie alien. 1 



pens, psychoanalysts pays the piper. Undeniably, 
many priests have shown a broad understanding of 
analysis. But along with this is an inflexible, though 
cleverly concealed desire to put it to work in the 
service o£ the only Holy and Apostolic Church, For 
the first we thank them ; for the second we say, no 
thank you. Everyone who has followed the litera- 
ture knows that the Church is preparing to take 
over psychoanalysis. But it cannot be denied that 
the Church is one of the strongest repressive forces 
in our society. When it utilizes analysis, it places it 
in the service of repression. In our practice we have 
often noted how an obsessional neurotic not only 
cleverly weaves newly acquired knowledge into his 
system, but often uses it to enlarge his obsessional 
patter. This is precisely what happens to analysis in 
the service of religion. 

It is all very well to be tolerant toward the reli- 
gious view, but we must guard against extending 
our tolerance also to analytic aberrations. One of 
our Berlin colleagues recently wrote that analysis, 
like religion, has the same basic belief in goodness; 
both demonstrate how powerful and triumphant the 
good is in us all. Certainly we cannot object to this, 
providing we stipulate that analysis can also demon- 
strate precisely the opposite. One might believe in a 
world order in which the good is unmercifully pun- 
ished and evil is its own reward. If our distin- 
guished colleague clearly sees the hand of God guid- 
ing human destiny, we shall not venture to question 


"the future of an illusion" 

him. But we may add mildly that the direction in 
which that digitus pater nae dextrae points is ex- 
tremely dubious. 

At another point in Freud's discussion we 
should like to expand on his remarks. He points out 
that religion also may give license to sin freely 
once more after repentance. The brooding Russians 
have concluded from this that it is necessary to sin 
in order to partake of divine grace. But this is the 
attitude not only of certain Russian types. Long ago, 
in the beginnings of Christianity, there were many 
gnostic sects, such as the Cainites, the Carpocratians 
and others, whose contempt for the flesh went so far 
that they determined to gratify all its lusts in order 
to destroy it. Many a girl was burned on a medieval 
stake because she had been accused by a priest of 
valuing her hymen too highly, thereby prizing a 
thing which was of no value with respect to her eter- 
nal salvation. The Holy Mother Church often em- 
phasized that asceticism was sinful. Only wanton 
pride inspired one to free oneself from the eternal 
curse of the flesh which God, in His inscrutable 
counsel, had made man's fate since the days of 
Adam. The Church here enjoins sinning. Extra ec- 
clesiam non est salus. 

Freud's passages on the future of religion and 
its slow, fateful dissolution are so clear and impres- 
sive that we need only draw the reader's attention 
to certain portions. There are sentences here which 
in their courageous directness, their monumental 



weight, and diamond-hard clarity, are reminiscent 
of the opening of the Beethoven C Minor Symphony. 
Thus destiny knocks at the door of a culture. 

We turn now to the last section of Freud's book. 
Here he considers what the future will be like after 
religion disappears as a significant element in our 
cultural complex. The ideal of psychology, the su- 
premacy of the intellect, will then take hold; edu- 
cation for reality will begin. The man of the future 
will confront with resignation the limitations of his 
own nature and will renounce all illusions. 

Here, together with the opponent, we recognize 
the logic and importance of Freud's ideas; but our 
skepticism prevails. We feel inclined to counter not 
with a harsh "no," but with the gentle "Je doute" 
of Renan. While we cannot but agree with Freud 
that religion is doomed, that it has run its course, 
we cannot help doubting the suggestion that men 
are capable of living without illusions. Education 
for reality is certainly a consummation most de- 
voutly to be wished ; but the most striking attribute 
of reality is its unpleasantness. We secretly feel that 
reality is something others should accept. The illu- 
sion of religion will vanish, but another will take 
its place. The supremacy of the intellect which Freud 
foresees would never be more than superficial ; bas- 
ically men would still be guided by their instinctual 
desires. We do not deny the possibility that men will 
some day be ruled by science. But they will still be 
men, which is to say, frail, inconstant, more or less 


"the future of an illusion" 

unreasonable beings who are the slaves of their in- 
stincts and who will never cease to strive after 
ephemeral pleasure. And men will continue to pray, 
"Lord, give us this day our daily illusion." 

Experience must have convinced Freud that 
science has not made the scientists any better ; that 
they are neither more patient nor happier nor even 
wiser. Science is by no means identifiable with the 
scientists, Freud himself once wrote the following 
lines which indicate that this view was not entirely 
strange to him. "If another form of mass educa- 
tion replaces religion, as socialism seems at present 
to be doing, the same intolerance against outsiders 
will persist. And if the scientific viewpoint ever 
gains a similar hold over the masses, the result will 
be no different." The rule of reason was instituted 
once before to the accompaniment of "<^a ira," and 
in its honor several thousand heads fell under the 
guillotine. The supreme intellect will at best be es- 
tablished as a puppet king for the powerful govern- 
ment of the instincts. I am afraid that the rule of 
reason will never prevent anyone from being utterly 
unreasonable. Freud overestimates both the extent 
and the strength of human intelligence. It is, in es- 
sentials, hardly different from the animal's intelli- 
gence; and in many instances even this comparison 
seems a low form of flattery. 

Freud points out that the supremacy of the in- 
tellect is only possible if mankind undergoes a pro- 
found change. He emphasizes the fact that the hu- 



man psyche has certainly undergone a development 
since earliest times and is no longer what it was at 
the beginning of our history. He counts among 
these changes the introjection or "internalization" 
of the outward compulsion, the creation of the su- 
perego. No one denies this development, but devel- 
opment does not necessarily mean progress. What 
appears as progress subjectively is succeeded by 
retrogression, by reactions which annul all that has 
been attained and which distort its shape. The course 
of human history may be compared with a gigantic 
pendulum which swings back and forth as sense- 
lessly and unpurposefully as the life of the indi- 
vidual. The skeptic will even venture to question 
whether the strengthening of the superego is indeed 
such a valuable achievement of civilization. Perhaps 
this very internalization of outward compulsion has 
given birth to ego impulses which either gradually 
smother the ego or break forth in a destructive ex- 
plosion. At any rate, we see that in neurosis the 
demands of the superego restrain the individual 
from the work of civilization as effectively as the, 
demands of the ego. Indeed, these demands not in- 
frequently coincide. The main question is one of 
proportion. The oversevere superego is just as cruel 
as external compulsion. It has ruined just as many 
lives and prompted just as many murders. The dif- 
ferences are not as fundamental as appears at first 
glance. We must remember that metamorphosis of 
the instinctual impulses from outer to inner compul- 


"the future of an illusion" 

sion does not imply any decrease in intensity. In 
fact, the process of repression itself strengthens 
these impulses. Further, in an organism which has 
been refined and differentiated by cultural evolution, 
stimuli of lesser intensity bring about the same ef- 
fects which in a cruder, more resistant organism 
must result from extremely powerful stimuli. God 
has provided that the elephant can bear loads which 
would break the back of a horse. A blow which to a 
primitive man would have been like the prick of a 
needle would overwhelm a modern civilized man like 
a hammer blow. Perhaps man would actually be bet- 
ter off if God had not granted him the right of rea- 

V In discussing the possibilities of cultural evo- 
lution Freud points to woman's intellectual limita- 
tions, which result, perhaps, from sexual prohibi- 
tions} But the peculiarity of feminine mental proc- 
esses does not imply inferiority. Analysis tells us, 
of course, that sexual censorship exercises a signifi- 
cant influence upon the thought functions. However, 
that is not conclusive proof that it alone is respon- 
sible for the special character of feminine intelli- 
gence. Perhaps here, too, peculiarities of the psy- 
chophysical structure, anatomical differences which 
prevent their using their intelligence in the by no 
means always reasonable manner of men, account 
for the fact that women do not think as men do. Cer- 
tainly, they have their feet more firmly on the 
ground and are far more submissive to reality than 



men. We would not have much trouble finding both 
religious men and unbelievers who agree with the 
opinion of St. Jerome, "Tota mulier in utero." 

We suspect, however, that the supremacy of 
the intellect must fall because of the fundamentally 
unchangeable nature of man and the power resist- 
ance this will offer to any attempts of the intellect 
at aggrandisement. Freud has shown us clearly that 
religion makes many claims which it cannot prove. 
Nevertheless, in all justice we must admit that there 
are exceptions to this. Religion tells us, "Blessed are 
the poor in spirit." And this assertion is by no means 
hollow. Many believers splendidly demonstrate the 
truth of the maxim. We need only summon to mind 
the many pious men and saints who were especially 
beloved of God. But life itself also testifies to the 
truth of this precept. I shall never forget the happy, 
indeed rapturous expression of a poor idiot at a psy- 
chiatric clinic, and the reflection of it, alas so faint, 
upon the face of the physician who was treating 
him. Nay, I do not believe that, for the sake of intel- 
ligence, men will renounce stupidity. Like "liberty, 
equality and fraternity," unreason is a sacred, in- 
alienable human right. The history of all countries, 
and especially of our beloved Austrian fatherland, 
proves that men know how to defend this principle, 
if necessary with sword in hand. 

Freud believes that the voice of the intellect, 
faint though it may be, will eventually make itself 
heard. And he believes this will be a great event. He 


"the future of an illusion" 

also foresees that the great god Logos will not be all- 
powerful. But unlike his opponent in the dialogue, 
he does not feel that this is sufficient reason for 
despairing of the future of mankind and renounc- 
ing all interest in the world and in life. Here we 
may venture to interject that renunciation does not 
follow from a less optimistic conception of the fu- 
ture, for our interest in life and in the world is 
stirred mainly by other than intellectual factors. It 
is fed by powerful instinctual aspirations. Even 
though we believe that after us comes the deluge, 
we may still retain intense interest in this life — per- 
haps even more intense because of that belief. 

We feel inclined to say that in the first part of 
this essay Freud has imparted knowledge ; in the lat- 
ter part he has made a confession of faith. We shall 
not withhold our great admiration for this bril- 
liantly delineated picture of the future; but it seems 
to us less compelling than the foregoing. Moreover, 
it is admittedly more dependent on subjective fac- 
tors than the rest. It is not outside the bounds of 
possibility that this picture of Freud's will become 
reality ; but it is certainly striking that his view of 
the future in the main seems to conform to our 
wishes. Whereas the main section of Freud's essay 
shows the future of an illusion, we may say with 
little exaggeration that this last section presents the 
illusion of a future. 

We might presume to sketch another picture of 
the future, without abandoning analytic principles. 

[ 135 ] 


Human civilization is essentially constructed like an 
obsessional neurosis; it begins with reaction forma- 
tions against the suppressed instinctual currents. 
The longer a civilization lasts, the more successful 
are these restrained impulses in gaining the upper 
hand ; the scales tip steadily in their favor. We can 
study this process in the decline of Greco-Roman 
civilization. On the one hand, the Logos as repre- 
sented by Socrates and the doctrine of Sophrosyne 
in Greece and by Marcus Aurelius and by the Stoics 
in Rome, was literally the highest principle. On the 
other hand, the instinctual forces which had been so 
long dammed up began to overflow the walls which 
reason had already undermined — and wrought the 
destruction of this civilization. Other peoples of un- 
assailed vitality, less spoiled by civilization, follow- 
ing their instincts with untroubled confidence, not 
yet exhausted by the struggle with the forces of re- 
pression, were then able to deal this civilization the 
death blow. Then the cycle begins again, for all that 
is here brought forth anew "deserves in the end non- 
entity." There is nothing to oppose this assumption 
that our civilization faces the same destiny; that the 
culture of our little peninsula of Asia will also col- 
lapse within a measurable space of time and that 
more vital and primitive peoples will bring about its 
end. It is one possibility among many others, and 
no more unlikely than the others. It is well to re- 
member, of course, that Freud also has presented 
his picture of the future not as a prophecy but as a 


"the future of an illusion'* 

suggestion worthy of consideration. He emphati- 
cally warns us against taking these reflections for 
more than just that. 

The future is closed to us; we labor on our cor- 
ner of civilization like those weavers who never see 
the tapestry they are weaving. We do our work be- 
cause we have no choice and — we will not deny it — 
because it gratifies us. The ultimate wisdom re- 
mains, "Cultivons notre jardin." 

Mankind, in the course of its historical devel- 
opment, has suffered three great disillusionments 
and humiliations. Let us compare the positions 
which the representatives of these three disillusion- 
ments have had toward religion. Copernicus, who 
proved that our planet had small claim to be consid- 
ered the center of the cosmos, closes his book with 
an impassioned hymn to God, the creator of the 
heavens and the earth. Darwin, who forced man to 
surrender his title of the "crown of creation," still 
clung to religious belief as a sort of reservation 
against his theory of evolution. Freud shows reli- 
gion as an illusion which should be eliminated from 
our concept of culture. 

The devout and cautious Copernicus did not 
dare to publish his work. But during those same 
years a liberty-loving man, Florian Geyer, became 
the leader of a movement which demanded freedom 
from the compulsion of the Church and justice and 
equality for all men; a movement which abjured all 
the consolations of heaven and stood stoutly for 



the principle that our kingdom is of this world. His 
plain, straightforward, uncomplicated mind had not 
yet grasped that profound necessity which, in the 
words of Anatole France, decrees that "the law in 
its majestic equality forbids both rich and poor to 
sleep under bridges and to steal bread/' Because of 
his outrageous ideas he was hunted and cut down 
like a mad dog by the henchmen of the throne and 
church. Within these four hundred years there has 
been no real change ; despite all appearances we still 
live in an era of intellectual coercion. But through 
those four hundred years the words I have seen en- 
graved on the sword of Florian Greyer still glow 
with fire, and these words might well stand as motto 
for Freud's essay, "Nulla crux, nulla corona." 

$P & & 

The foregoing critical discussion was first deliv- 
ered at one of our Wednesday meetings in Freud's 
home in December, 1927, He was in complete agree- 
ment with me about my condemnation of methodo- 
logical evasions and said : "Those critics who limit 
their studies to methodological investigations re- 
mind me of people who are always polishing their 
glasses instead of putting them on and seeing with 

However, Freud rejected my pessimistic out- 
look. Although he admitted that his more favorable 
prophecy did not apply to the immediate future, he 
said that "in the long run" he had faith In the crit- 


"the future of an illusion" 

ical and intellectual capabilities of man. He thought 
these would not fail to fulfill themselves. In the dis- 
cussion he also conceded that there were useful illu- 
sions which advanced civilization; he granted that 
in the past religion had been valuable as a force for 
education and progress ; but he believed that now it 
had become a brake upon the progress of civilization 
and must be cast aside. After the meeting he said 
smilingly to me : "You are not at all the skeptic you 
think you are. I would call you a positivist, because 
you are so thoroughly convinced that man will not 



Here I am going to discuss Freud's interpreta- 
tion of a religious experience and generalize on 
the religious-psychological significance of his little 

It must be emphasized that the material on 
which his interpretation is based is extremely scanty. 
It consists of a brief epistolary communication. The 
facts are as follows : One day Freud, in the course 
of an interview, expressed his indifference to the 
life after death. Shortly afterward an American 
physician wrote to him recounting a religious ex- 
perience which he hoped would have some telling 
effect upon the skeptic. The physician told of how, 
when he was yet a student, he had been profoundly 
moved at the sight of the corpse of an old woman 
with a serene, lovely face; and how this event had 
determined his religious views. When he saw this 
corpse on the dissection table the thought had sud- 
denly flashed through him: No, there is no God; if 
there were a God he would never have allowed such 
a sweet-faced, dear old woman to lie dishonored in 
the dissection room. This was not the first time he 
had doubted the teachings of Christianity; but on 

[ HO] 


this afternoon he resolved he would never enter a 
church again. An inner voice had admonished him 
to think well before he denied God. And his mind 
had replied to this inner voice: If I can be shown 
with certainty that Christian doctrine is true and 
that the Bible is the Word of God, I will accept it. 

In the course of the next few days God in- 
structed his soul that the Bible is God's Word, that 
all the teachings about Jesus Christ are true and that 
Jesus is our sole hope. "After this clear revelation I 
accepted the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus 
Christ as my Saviour. Since then God has revealed 
himself to me by many indisputable signs." The 
young physician then expresses the hope that God 
will reveal the truth to Freud's soul also. 

Freud, in attempting to interpret the story on 
the basis of this scant psychological evidence, takes 
the situation in the dissection room as his clue. The 
corpse of the old woman reminded the young phy- 
sician of his dearly loved mother. The mother-long- 
ing of the Oedipus complex is aroused, and is ac- 
companied by revolt against the father. The uncon- 
scious desire for the destruction of the father found 
its way to consciousness in the form of doubt of 
God's existence. This is possible because of the as- 
sociative and affective connection of the two con- 
cepts: God — father. The mother-longing could be 
translated to the reason as justifiable rage at the 
abuse of the maternal object, especially since the 



child's mind believes that the father abuses the 
mother in sexual intercourse. 

This new impulse, then, is no more than an- 
other guise of old emotions which have been trans- 
ferred to the religious realm. And this impulse suf- 
fers the same fate as the old emotions — it subsides 
under the tremendous pressure of inhibition. The 
psychic conflict ends in complete submission to the 
will of the Father-God; the young physician be- 
comes and remains a believer. 

This remarkable interpretation has been met 
with the criticism that the paucity of material dis- 
allows such far-reaching conclusions concerning the 
psychic processes of the young physician. I think, 
however, that in spite of this handicap Freud has 
successfully and lucidly established the psychic con- 
nection between the impression at the sight of the 
corpse and the subsequent religious conversion. We 
must admit that the insufficiency of the material ob- 
viated an investigation into the details of the psy- 
chic process. For psychological analysis it would 
certainly have been preferable if we had possessed 
more exact and exhaustive information about the 
mysterious conversion. However, it may be in the 
nature of things that the conversion remain mysteri- 
ous. Dogma maintains that conversion is a process 
which is psychically and psychologically all but in- 
comprehensible, since, for the most part, it is a man- 
ifestation of God's Grace. St. Augustine has impres- 
sively described how, at death, Grace inclines the 



soul of the sinner toward the Faith (if this be his 
destiny), and how divine virtue takes possession of 
the human will "indeclinabiliter et insuperabiliter" 
so that it is transformed into a new will. 

The physician's letter was written a long time 
after the experience; nevertheless, in this case the 
analysis was unable to take into account either the 
later changes induced by memory or the psychic 
stratification, both of which would be necessary for 
a thoroughgoing analytic investigation. 


Let us try to explore some of the lesser ele- 
ments which Freud's more general analysis passed 

Whence comes the profound impression made 
by the naked corpse of the woman ? Freud's answer 
is that the sight of the naked old woman reawakened 
the mother fixation. The memory of the mother, 
therefore, stirs up mingled feelings of tenderness 
and sensuality. When we consider that the corpse 
is lying on a dissection table, we see good reason for 
diagnosing that there is also present a strong sadis- 
tic component of the sexuality of the young man. 
This sadistic element, transformed into intellectual 
aggressiveness, later proceeds to question the divin- 
ity. When, at the sight of the corpse, there flashed 
through his mind the thought that there is no God, 
not only was the mother-longing completed by the 
revolt against the father, but there was also a trans- 



ference of the sadistic impulse back to the original 
object of childhood. 

In other words, the sight of the dead woman, 
who here unconsciously appears as a mother-surro- 
gate, did more than revive longing for the mother. 
It also stirred the negative Oedipus complex and 
permitted the counter impulses, intensified by reac- 
tion, to press to the surface of the psyche. Only after 
that sadistic reaction does the mother once more 
appear to the physician as the "sweet-faced, dear old 
woman." Not until then is the old Oedipus reaction 
allowed to appear in its original intensity and form : 
as revolt against the father. It is by no means im- 
material that it was a dead woman, a naked corpse 
which prompted the old emotions. The sight of the 
corpse, by reawakening the unconscious sadistic im- 
pulses, also caused the revival of the whole psychic 
constellation of the child. As soon as the one instinc- 
tual goal had been attained by the revolt against the 
Father-God, this regression could take place.* 

♦Abundant analytic evidence bears out our contention that 
the sight of a dead person typically arouses the sadism of early 
childhood. It is fairly common for these impulses to be bound 
up in the unconscious with tendencies to rebel against God. The 
humility prescribed by the Church in the words: "The Lord 
hath given and the Lord hath taken away, praise be the name 
of the Lord" — is in itself nothing but a perversion and com- 
pensation of the bitter rebellion against a cruel God. We may 
compare the case of this American physician with a little story 
of Alexander Dumas about the death of his father. In his 
Memoirs Dumas tells how he had adored his father, the famous 
cavalry general and comrade-in-arms of Napoleon. When the 



It is noteworthy that the religious conversion 
of the physician proceeded from an experience which 
is pre-eminently a sight experience. The analyst is 
well acquainted with the intimate connection be- 
tween the peeping impulse and desire for knowl- 
edge, the investigatory impulse. The child frequently 
experiences the frustration of the earliest forms of 
this impulse when he is punished for improper de- 
sires to look at what he is not supposed to see. Thus 

genera] was dying, the four-year-old boy was taken to the home 
of an uncte. "Awakened after a very restless night, I heard, 
entirely bewildered as I was, the words : 'My poor child, your 
father who loved you so dearly is dead." I considered for a 
moment. Although still a child and of limited understanding, I 
nevertheless felt that this was a fateful event in my life. The 
next moment, since no one was watching me, I slipped away 
from my uncle and ran straight to my mother's home. The 
doors were open ; I entered without anyone seeing or taking 
notice of me. I reached the little wardrobe where the weapons 
were kept. There I seized a rifle that had belonged to my father 
and which he had promised to give me when 1 grew up. Bur- 
dened with this rifle, I dragged myself up the stairs. On the 
first floor I met my mother. She was just coming from the 
room where the corpse reposed. 'Where are you going?' she 
exclaimed. She was very surprised to see me, since I was sup- 
posed to be at my uncle's. 'I am going to Heaven,' I replied. — 
*What? You are going to Heaven?' — 'Yes, let me go, mother!' 
— 'But what do you want to do in Heaven, my poor boy?' — 'I 
want to kill the dear Lord because he has killed our father. 
Uncle said that God took father to himself and that God lives 
in Heaven.' " God, against whom the boy wanted to take re- 
venge for the death of the father, is himself a substitute for 
the father. AH the son's unconscious hate turns against God, 
while at the same time his love for the father, intensified by 
loss, is expressed in the desire for revenge. 



the little boy is scolded for his sexual curiosity about 
the body of his mother or his nurse. There is a re- 
gression to this early experience in the situation at 
the dissection table. Along with the unconscious 
memory of the mother, the old rage against the 
father is also aroused. The father always repre- 
sented interference and prohibition to the child's 

It is significant that in the psychic processes 
the physician describes, the sexual strivings appear 
to focus in the eye (Shakespeare calls the eye the 
"match-maker of love"), while the forbidding and 
repressing forces take the ear for organ. The pro- 
found impression the sight of the woman's corpse 
made upon the young doctor was succeeded by 
doubts which manifested themselves in the form of 
an inner dialogue. A warning voice speaks within 
him and his mind replies to it. It is not hard to un- 
derstand what aspects of the development of the 
child are here repeated. The inner voice is a mani- 
festation of the superego, of the father of childhood 
who has been absorbed into the ego. It is he who 
warns against the release of the impulses and the 
defiance to God, Here, then, the uprising of obscure 
impulses is put down by the memory of the father's 
voice and of the voices of his representatives whom 
the child revered and dreaded : the teacher and the 
priest. There is a curious reaction to this prohibi- 
tion. The ego ("my spirit") responds: If I can be 
shown with certainty that Christian doctrine is true 



and that the Bible is the Word of God, I will accept 
it. Such demand for proof is an old story for theol- 
ogy. Again and again characters in the Bible and in 
the other holy books plead for some proof of reli- 
gious truths which will be accessible to their senses. 
They want signs and miracles — and signs and mir- 
acles are always vouchsafed them. 

The counterpart of this religious phenomenon 
is to be found in obsessional neurosis. Often enough, 
in the treatment of obsessional neurotics, we meet 
with those characteristic dependent clauses which 
are presumed to establish the strange connection be- 
tween such an omen and an expected or dreaded 
event Psychologically, there is no great difference 
between the religious pattern of the American phy- 
sician and the obsessional idea that seizes upon a 
neurotic patient as he walks down the street: "If 
the streetcar passes that lamppost before the auto- 
mobile does, my father's operation will be success- 
ful." Cause and effect notions of this kind derive 
their affective value from the belief in the omnipo- 
tence of thought. Such ideas are always arising out 
of the inexhaustible reservoir of the unconscious; 
yet in this case we may also assume that precon- 
scious memories of the tradition of Christianity 
were responsible. At any rate, the profound, linger- 
ing influence of Christian doctrine is indicated by 
the fact that three times in close succession the Bible 
is spoken of as the "Word of God." ("If I can be 
shown with certainty that ... the Bible is the 



Word of God" ; "In the course of the next few days 
God instructed my soul that the Bible was God s 
Word . . ."; "After this clear revelation I ac- 
cepted the Bible as the Word of God . . .") This 
inconspicuous, though for the analyst pointed, repe- 
tition serves as an unconscious confession. It leads 
us to believe that the reactionary tendencies may be 
traced back to the religious doctrines which were 
dinned into the ears of the child. 

We can now reconstruct what went on in the 
psyche of the physician during those anguished days 
when God revealed to him that the Bible was His 
Word, By reaction, the religious doctrines of child- 
hood have been lent increased effectiveness in the 
unconscious memory. This effectiveness is based 
originally on familiar phrases heard so often about 
the parental household and carrying with them pow- 
erful affective overtones. This is particularly inter- 
esting in this connection because it is these very reli- 
gious doctrines which contribute, at a certain age, 
to overcoming the infantile Oedipus complex, thus 
paving the way for the child's entrance into the so- 
cial order. Freud remarks that the conflict in the 
young physician seems to have manifested itself as 
a hallucinatory psychosis. We might add that this 
auricular hallucination of the young doctor's was a 
regression to religious phrases with an aura of 
strong emotion. The conversion took place through 
unconscious, affective cathexis of childhood impres- 



sions, especially those pertaining to childhood doc- 
trines and symbolism. 

The poet, wishing to present such an experi- 
ence in dramatic form, quite justly reproduces in 
objective action the process which appears here as 
subjective. Though he can rely for symbols only on 
sense impressions, he will nevertheless manage to 
convince us that his character has been experienc- 
ing profoundly affective childhood impressions. The 
young doctor's mysterious conversion, with its un- 
dercurrent childhood religious impressions, may re- 
mind many readers of the Easter Eve scene in 
Goethe's Faust. Here the sound of the Easter bells 
in the church and the singing of the Easter choral, 
"Christ is Risen," makes the doubt-ridden and de- 
spairing Faust remember the days of his childhood : 

"An diesen Klang von Jugend auf gezuohnt, 
Ruft er audi jetet zuriick mich in das Leben." 

"This sound, habitual to my dearest youth, 
Now summons me again into this life." 

It is these childhood impressions that make the 
sound of the bells and the choral song powerful, 
soothing, heavenly tones. In both situations the 
"holde Nachricht," the "sweet message," is rein- 
forced by the overtones of the childhood feelings it 
once aroused. 

Though the release of the impulses has been ac- 
complished and the unconscious memories reawak- 
ened, our young physician is once more seized with 



the old yearning. The religious teachings, the child- 
hood fables which had gone to oblivion, become real 
to him again and he believes as fervently as he once 
had. The mother-longing is here isolated from the 
longing for the loving and protecting father. 

This, then, is the inevitable result of the con- 
flict; love alone cannot resolve it, Freud's concep- 
tion of the psychic processes may be schematically 
outlined in this way: Sight of the naked body of 
the dead woman — (unconscious) reawakening of 
the mother-longing; revolt (wish for the death of 
the father) — (conscious) doubt of the existence of 
God; revulsion against this and conversion by reac- 
tion. This outline requires a psychoanalytical sup- 
plement: the wish for the father's death (in the dis- 
placement: doubt of God) unconsciously provokes 
the release of intense affects in the young man, 
which essentially are nothing less than fear for his 
own life (fear of castration). These affects could 
not reach the consciousness; but they evidence them- 
selves first in the emergence and later in the tri- 
umph of the admonishing inner voice. If we may 
translate unconscious psychic processes into the 
language of consciousness, this is, roughly, the train 
of thought: If I revolt against the father and kill 
him (the Father-God), I shall be punished just as 
this woman was, who now lies on the dissection 
table. Our analytic experience gives us ample jus- 
tification for these deductions that fill in the gaps 



in the psychic process. For analysis has indicated 
that fear is a reigning factor in the psyche. 

Once the death wish has emerged (i.e., the 
doubt of the existence of God), the prevailing atti- 
tude is now no longer determined by ambivalence, 
but also by the alternation of defiance and uncon- 
scious anxiety. This vacillation between hatred and 
affection, defiance and anxiety, lasts for days. The 
denouement is a crisis in which the hate impulses, 
intensified by fear, attempt to force themselves into 
the consciousness in all their primitive might. And, 
involved as they are with the Oedipus complex, they 
threaten to drag this complex to the surface. At the 
height of this crisis the aggressive and hostile im- 
pulses are then thrown back upon themselves under 
the influence of the unconscious fear of castration. 
This is a re-enactment in a telescoped form of what 
took place when the Oedipus complex was first sup- 
pressed. Submission to God and the religious tradi- 
tion are therefore conditioned by the re-emergence 
of the fear of castration. 

The overpowering homosexual tendency of the 
young physician, in its highly sublimated, religious 
form, now makes him a proselytizer ; he strives to 
unite his brothers ("brother physician" in the let- 
ter to Freud), to unite all mankind in love for the 
father. The "saviour-tendency" is a well-known 
peculiarity among certain educated classes of the 
American people; how much stronger must this 
tendency become when the individual in question 



commands such profound and mysteriously won 
knowledge of the Absolute. But it cannot be com- 
pletely concealed that even this ail-embracing love is 
essentially nothing but a reaction to extreme rebel- 
lious impulses. Its explosive quality, its eagerness 
to convert, derives from those repressed aggressive 
impulses. Just so an unconscious desire betrays its 
intensity by the severity of the inhibition. The very 
violence is diverted to the service of the opposing 
factors. We can now understand the development in 
the unconscious of the young doctor's conversion as 
a regressive process. Thereby we have cleared up 
much of the mystery. Now we can also profound a 
better evaluation of the psychic situation which pre- 
vailed when the letter was written: 

"Entschlafen rind mtn ivilde Triebe 
Mit jedem ungestumen Tun, 
Es reget rich die Menschenliebe, 
Die Liebe Gottes regt sich nun" 

"The wild desires no longer win us, 
The deeds of passion cease to chain ; 
The love of Man revives within us, 
The love of God revives again." 

His religious faith, which has been gained at 
the cost of so much conflict and which is retained 
despite all the arguments of reason, is therefore 
the counterpart of the extreme rebellious tendencies 
from which it was wrested. The fathers of the 
Church would doubtless describe the psychic expe- 



riences preceding his eventual enlightenment as one 
of those salutary ordeals which so frequently pre- 
cede the conversio. 

Once more there wells up from the hidden 
sources of the psyche a wave of rebellion and anger, 
finally to be engulfed in the undertow. The young 
man's revolt against a cruel and tyrannical God 
yields under the pressure of psychic reaction. "Die 
Trane quillt, der Himmel hat ihn wieder." ("The 
tears burst forth, and Heaven has regained him.") 


So much for the psychological analysis of this 
case. Wherein lies the more general scientific sig- 
nificance of Freud's essay, the broader implications 
of this individual case? I believe that these four 
pages of Freud's essay analyzing this religious ex- 
perience are a great advance toward a deeper gen- 
eral understanding of the conversion process. Mod- 
ern religious science has collected a wealth of ma- 
terial on the psychology of conversion. These works 
treat of some of the points we must consider here.* 
William James finds the unconscious — which he 
conceives in the old, static fashion — of considerable 
significance in conversion. More recent literature on 

*Cf. Joh. Htrzog, Der Beruf der Bekehrung, 1903; W. 
James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1903; E. D. 
Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion, 19 10. Further, the well- 
known more modern works of de Sanctis, Girgensohn, Oester- 
reich, etc. 



the psychology of religion deals with psychoanalytic 
findings as well. Nevertheless, the fundamental 
psychic processes of conversion were not clarified. 
However, we can understand them if we, disre- 
garding the features peculiar to the case Freud 
has discussed, reflect upon the essential result of 
his analysis. It is well to proceed from cases just 
such as this, which are characterized by a sudden, 
mysterious illumination. When we arrive at an un- 
derstanding of what motivates such "conversione 
fidminea" (so de Sanctis terms these cases, in 
contrast to the examples of "conversione progres- 
siva")* we shall also approach an understanding 
of the psychic processes in slower, more gradual 

Analytic psychology now presents the remark- 
able conclusion that the most important prerequisite 
for conversion is the unconscious emergence of 
powerful hostile and aggressive impulses directed 
against the father ; that these undergo displacement 
and are expressed as doubts of God. The essential 
feature of the conversion process consists in the 
psychic reaction against this uprising in the uncon- 
scious of hate and revolt. The affection which has 
been born out of reaction to the "bad" impulses will 
then express itself in utter submission to the love 
object and faith in the doctrines, commands, and 
prohibitions it represents. The close resemblance be- 

* Sancte de Sanctis, La Conversione Religiosu, Bologna, 
1904. P- 53- 



tween the affects of love and the phenomena of re- 
ligious conviction will undoubtedly seem strange to 
conscious psychology; but pastoral theology for 
several centuries has accepted it as a matter of 
course. The turning point of the psychic process is 
the appearance of the unconscious fear (fear of 
castration) which follows in the wake of the emerg- 
ing hate impulses.* 

Freud's little essay has great significance be- 
cause it clarifies this process. Within his discussion 
of the individual case there lies the solution to the 
enigmatic universal case. Conversion arises out of 
an eruption of the impulses which provoke uncon- 
scious hate tendencies toward the father. This in 
turn sets in motion a whole mechanism of reaction 
through fear and affection. All the various meta- 
morphoses of conversion — and the literature on the 
subject shows how many these are — can be included 
under this psychological explanation. Whether the 
psychic process is instigated by any special event, 
as here, or whether it results from prolonged con- 
flicts, the ecstatic state of the ego is the product of 
that unconscious reaction. 

This essay of Freud's has also opened broader 
vistas for religious science. Conversion is so closely 
related to revelation that the two expressions are 

*We may point out here that God influences through 
threats those who prove somewhat negligent about their con- 
version. "If ye turn not, he will whet his sword; he has bent 
his bow and made it ready." Ps. VII, 12. * t 



frequently used interchangeably. It would be more 
accurate to say that the core of many cases of 
conversion is a kind of mysterious revelation. We 
do not realize the scope of Freud's little essay until 
we extend the results to the fields of folk psy- 
chology and cultural history. The conclusions of 
this analysis prove to be valid also for phenomena 
of the collective psyche. Every revelation arises out 
of revolt against the divinity, and evinces that pow- 
erful reaction which results from fear and affection. 
The tradition of the Revelation on Mt. Sinai, upon 
which Jewish and Christian religion is based, tells 
how the Israelite tribes revolted against their chief, 
how they were intimidated and ultimately subjected. 
Here we have a personal, intrapsychic event repre- 
sented as an external, historical happening ; as upris- 
ing followed by threats and punishments which 
compel the people to obey. The voice of Jahveh be- 
comes audible and pronounces the commandments, 
the "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt note." Psycho- 
analysis has shown that these at heart are nothing 
but the suppression of unconscious incestuous and 
insurgent impulses. What appears as "veritates a 
coelo delapsae" are distinctly of earthly origin and 
earthly motivation. Freud's theory about the case 
of conversion is equally valid for the Revelation on 
Sinai. The same psychic history holds true for this 
momentous event in the religious experience of na- 

For this reason I have hopes that the young 



psychoanalysts of religion, whom the official reli- 
gious psychologists superciliously contemn, will 
come to even more revealing, and perhaps conclu- 
sive, discoveries. We are still a long way from a 
thorough psychological understanding of the arcane 
ways of religion; but analytic research has come 
closer to piercing the mysteries than all previous 
religious science. 



The essay "Dostoyevsky and Patricide" served 
as preface to that great Dostoyevsky edition in 
which the sources, outlines, and fragments of The 
Brothers Karamazov are compiled and critically 
evaluated.* Unquestionably, this was the proper 
place for this study which offers such original and 
important insight into the life and creation of the 
great novelist. 

In their preliminary remarks the editors ex- 
press their gratitude to Freud for composing "spe- 
cially for the occasion this deeply penetrating 
analysis of Dostoyevsky and his Brothers Kara- 
mazov." Does this mean that the essay was merely 
an occasional piece? In more than one sense it was. 
Certainly, the occasion gave Freud the opportunity 
to put old reflections into an appropriate form. And 
it is equally certain that the occasion did not evoke 
these reflections. But while we welcome the stimulus 
that led him to embody his thoughts in writing, it 
would have been preferable had they not been com- 
posed "specially for the occasion." For in that case, 

* F. M. Dostoyevsky, Die Urgeslalt der Briider Karamasoff, 
Editors: v. Rene Ftilop-Miller und Friedrich Eckstein, R. Piper 
& Co. Verlag, Munchen. 



there is little doubt that Freud would have added 
some very welcome material and would have gone 
far beyond the bounds set by a preface. And some 
of his remarks which now seem somewhat forced 
interpolations could have been developed within a 
broader framework. 

Freud first pays tribute to the richness of Dos- 
toyevsky's personality. He describes him as a poet, 
neurotic, moralist, and sinner. It is as though Freud 
had slipped open a fan to reveal the curious letter- 
ing and interesting pictures on the folds. Little 
space is devoted to Dostoyevsky the artist, and 
Freud intimates that psychoanalysis must lay down 
its arms before the problem of the poet. But, we 
may assume, only before the biological aspect of this 
problem, before the question of special innate gifts. 
For psychoanalysis has a great deal to contribute 
in questions of artistic creation. It can explain much 
about unconscious instinctual forces and mechan- 
isms, as well as the obscure psychic predispositions 
which govern conception and form. Indeed, it has 
already done a great deal in this field. We have 
found that the processes of artistic creation are far 
less inscrutable than has been thought, although 
they are still mysterious enough. 

Freud feels that Dostoyevsky is most vulner- 
able as moralist. When we consider him as a moral 
man, we must seriously object to his ideal that only 
one who has experienced the lowest depths of sin- 
fulness can attain the highest morality. He who 



alternately sins and then, in repentance, makes lofty 
moral demands of himself, has in reality greatly 
simplified matters. For what is morality but renun- 
ciation? Dostoyevsky's own life, Freud continues, 
was torn between alternate outbreak of the im- 
pulses and repentance. 

Our first impression of this judgment is that 
it is stern but just. On second thought it seems 
sterner than just. Yet why does Freud's discussion 
of the concept of morality strike us as dubious and 
inadequate? It is because his negative statement 
seems to have more truth than his attempted posi- 
tive formulation. We freely grant that his is not 
the highest stage of morality who alternately sins 
and then sincerely repents. But, while once upon a 
time renunciation was the sole criterion of monriity, 
it is now but one of many. If it were the sole cri- 
terion, then the upright middle-class philistine, to 
whose shabby imagination submission is natural, 
and to whose blunt senses renunciation is easy, 
would be morally far greater than Dostoyevsky. If 
we pursued this sentiment we would arrive at the 
proverb: A good conscience is the best rule of 
health. This is all very well, but it merely explains 
why there are so many sluggards, so many con- 
tented and satiated men who have gained "wretched 
self-complacency," as Nietzsche put it, out of renun- 
ciation. Renunciation in itself is, after all, not so 
important; what we respect is renunciation that is 
the victory over powerful impulses. We cannot 



overlook the intensity of temptation in our concept 
of that compromise we customarily call morality. 
Where there is no sin there is no religion. Religion 
would not last for a day if the heart of man were 
relieved of guilt (and affiliated ideas like taboo, 
unclean, and their like). 

Let us not succumb to shallow and conventional 
judgments; we must perceive that morality resides 
in the struggle with the instinctual forces and not 
in the victory over them. In this sense the criminal 
who abandons himself to his vicious instincts can 
in many cases be considered more moral than the 
solid citizen who escapes his instincts by renouncing 
them. Satan, too, was an angel like the others and 
he remains a great theologian before God — and 
agai»st God. The concept of renunciation seems ob- 
vious only in the most superficial sense; its full 
meaning unfolds to us only when we understand the 
part played by the instinctual goal. For psycho- 
logically, renunciation is another method of gratifi- 
cation of the instincts, a method which sacrifices 
crude material pleasure for the privilege of enjoy- 
ing that pleasure in phantasy. The instincts are 
again victorious, but in sublimated form, and the 
victory can be attained at small cost. The differences 
between this kind of gratification and others are 
only quantitative. 

Freud believes that Dostoyevsky's kind of com- 
promise with morality is a typically Russian trait. 
In reality it is a universal human trait. Only in the 

[ i6t ] 


extremes between one emotional state and the other 
is this a national peculiarity, that is, a quality de- 
pendent upon the history and destiny of a people. 
Such a struggle between the demands of the in- 
stincts and the requirements of society will take a 
certain form and have such an outcome according 
to the period and the culture of the community. In 
the case of Dostoyevsky, these two factors have 
left their unmistakable imprint on his compromise 
with morality — which is in itself a compromise. 
Throughout his life the great artist unconsciously 
stood in the heavy shadow of that unfortunate 
error which nineteen hundred years ago separated 
mankind into saints and sinners. The dominance of 
this view in his psyche explains the hypertrophy of 
his conscience and the radical swings between sin 
and repentance. We children of another age, which 
appears as a progressed one to simpler spirits, are 
no longer capable of fully understanding the psy- 
chology of the Russian people of this period. No 
one who has not grown up in this cultural milieu 
and has not early undergone the profound influence 
of Christianity can project himself into the feelings 
of these people. Religious upbringing added a new, 
more refined form of gratification of the impulses 
to the old ways: the voluptuousness of giving one- 
self up for lost, of knowing that one was damned. 
It is very hard for us to comprehend emotionally 
the orgies of passion and suffering which were the 
psychological aftermath of this attitude. 

[ 162 ] 


It was such factors that prescribed the fate of 
Dostoyev sky's instincts. They also were responsible 
in part for his moral views. Dostoyevsky would 
never, for example, have admitted that a man, how- 
ever moral he be, can experience inner temptation 
without that experience being a surrender to it. He 
would take an even sterner stand than Freud's, de- 
claring that the very appearance of forbidden im- 
pulses is in itself immoral. He would insist upon 
the letter of the Saviour's parable — he who merely 
looks with desire upon his neighbor's wife is an 
adulterer. This urgent moral imperative leads us to 
a strange fatalism, for sinning in thought is in- 
evitable. Therefore, the sinful act does not matter ; 
in fact, the unconscious guilt feeling requires it. 
Whoever knows himself damned has no reason to 
shun any of the byways on the road to hell. Nor 
has the hangman who is leading a murderer to the 
gallows any reason to expect that the condemned 
man will be docile and make no trouble. Dostoyev- 
sky 's life shows that he harbored such temptations 
and wish phantasies always with a deep feeling of 
guilt, and with spells of violent abandon. 

To Freud's moral ideal — the complete renun- 
ciation as soon as the temptation appears — Dos- 
toyevsky would rejoin that it was certainly the 
purest and most beautiful, but that God in His in- 
scrutable counsel had not designed this way for 
mortal man. Numerous saints of the Church are 
precedents, he would say, that above all he who 

[ 163 ] 


attains virtue through sin and repentance is pleas- 
ing to God In the light of human frailty, Freud's 
moral program would seem superhuman to Dos- 
toyevsky. And how the pharisees would distort and 
make a mock of it, extolling their own renunciation 
to God, and putting by all suggestions that they 
have anything in common with sinners. 

It is understandable that, with such psychic 
predispositions, Dostoyevsky resolved this inner 
conflict by bowing completely before all secular and 
ecclesiastical authority. We may regret this, but we 
cannot condemn it. Freud points out that Dos- 
toyevsky failed "to become a teacher and liberator 
of mankind; instead he joined forces with human- 
ity's jailers." Freud adds, "The cultural future of 
mankind will have little to thank him for." 

Now it is perfectly true that Fyodor Michailo- 
vitch Dostoyevsky sought the shelter of the old jail 
that he was used to from childhood. In keeping with 
his time and his milieu, he was not eager to inspect 
the spick-and-span new ones. Loving the old illusion, 
he did not care to exchange it for a modern one 
with the fine-sounding name of freedom. He saw 
that progress was marching stoutly along on the 
wrong track, and he chose to remain outside of the 
procession. He shared the admirable prejudice about 
a more splendid future for mankind; but he felt 
that life without religion would be as empty and 
meaningless as is reality. He preferred to cherish 



the old illusion — and we cannot take him to task 
for this. 

"The cultural future of mankind will have 
little to thank him for." Very true, for that future 
will probably be concerned with the improvement of 
telescopes, poison gas warfare, air- war, boxing, and 
baseball. Everything points to this, that the men of 
the future will look upon thinking as a kind of in- 
fectious disease which prevents the possibility of 
being happy. (Perhaps they will discover with some 
satisfaction that already many of the scientists of 
our time have acquired immunity to this serious 
malady.) But whatever may be our opinion about 
this future, it is clear that gratitude will not be 
one of its virtues. (And what if it were? — "Pos- 
terity exists only for the living," says Schnitzler.) 
We know that the men of our time are mediocre, 
capricious, petty, mean, and wretched; we know 
that they were thus in earlier times; and we have 
no reason to think that in the future they will be 
generous, resolute, noble, helpful, and good. If they 
should turn out so, they would have to thank Dos- 
toyevsky from the bottom of their hearts. Not, how- 
ever, for the religious and political goals he sought. 
(The Russian soul will not be the redeemer of the 
human race any more than the German soul.) The 
future will have very little use for his Christian or 
national program. But then, neither do the ethics 
of Homer, the Bible or Shakespeare govern our lives 
any longer. Today Goethe's political views seem 



provincial and antiquated to us; the close of his 
Faust, in which the Catholic Heaven opens, im- 
presses us as a painful discord amid music of the 
spheres. Schiller's nationalistic and social ideas have 
meaning only for adolescents. For the apostolic life 
of the older Tolstoi, whom we revere as a poet and 
psychologist, we have only pity and an almost supe- 
rior tolerance. 

The political and religious opinions of great 
poets are simply not important. Reforming mankind 
is not their task on earth, nor do they hold the future 
of humanity in the hollow of their hands. Heavy 
industry and munitions works are much more in- 
fluential. Any petty boss in a political party can 
advocate political and social programs. The ward 
heeler's smile is mightier than the pen. Every states- 
man and political leader of today who helps the in- 
sulted and injured win their rights has a juster 
claim to the title of ethical liberator than the writer 
whose art portrays their wretched fate for us. 

But the poet can show us human beings who 
are mirrors of ourselves and to whom we are mir- 
rors. And on this stage of the world he presents the 
drama of the human condition, its coldness and 
darkness and effort, the rise and decline of our 
fates. He extracts some meaning from the earth's 
nihilism, from the misery of man as well as from 
his absurd aspirations and desires. Who can do 
this but one blessed of God — a poet like Fyodor 
Michailovitch Dostoyevsky, whose political and re- 



Hgious ideas seem so abstruse, limited, and foolish 
to us? That future civilization which may owe 
nothing to Dostoyevsky should nevertheless honor 
him for his creation of characters whose terrible 
and calm genius shakes the utmost depths of our 
souls. He has offered the men of the future insights 
that are almost visionary. He has offered them 
wonderful and strange emotions which surely are 
beyond the power of social reformers or apostles to 
give. His religious and political beliefs have come to 
nothing — his God has been dethroned long ago. But 
the prayer that was breathed by his creative spirit 
will be mightier than all the prayers he addressed 
to the God of the Christians. That prayer, in the 
words of the hymn of Hrabanus Maurus, goes : 

"Veni, creator spiritus: 
. . . Accende lumen sensibus." 

Freud's critical attitude toward Dostoyevsky, 
for whom, certainly, he has no great love, becomes 
gentler and more objective as soon as he leaves off 
making evaluations and steps into his own field of 
depth psychology. Here there is no more caution, no 
more feeble argument, and he masterfully opens the 
hidden way to the psyche. All philosophical differ- 
ences cease to matter, all divisions of period and 
culture disappear, and a man stands naked before 
us, shipwrecked in a tempest, but stranded on 
Prospero's island, where his most secret thoughts 
are recognized. Where Freud thinks as a psycholo- 



gist and not as a moralist, he no longer bothers his 
head about the commandments. He sees the man 
alone, suffering at the insufficiency of human exist- 
ence, his genius caught in the snares of his environ- 

It was merely by chance that a great writer 
was the object of this analytic study. The advantage 
and desirability of such an object is that the man 
reveals himself as other men cannot. Those revela- 
tions are often oblique and obscure, sudden flashes 
which illuminate one corner of his being, leaving 
the greater part in even deeper shadow. 

But Freud's analysis of Dostoyevsky's uncon- 
scious attachment to his father fell like a long 
shadow upon his impressionable ego and colored 
forever after the nature and effects of his malady. 
The father's mysterious influence ruled his life and 
work; it was this force that drove him into the 
abyss and exalted him to the heights. With a few 
short strokes Freud draws a picture of the history 
of a man's psyche, of the determinants of his illness 
latent in the psyche and the meaning of the symp- 
toms. Freud has thrown more light upon Dostoyev- 
sky's being than has any literary critic or biog- 

The crowning point in this analysis is the ex- 
planation of the poet's malady. Freud shows how a 
powerful instinctual desire may turn about and at- 
tack the desirer himself ; how in an epileptic fit the 
"other" enters the ego and how the death of this 



other is well-nigh an experience of the death of the 
ego itself. 

From this point the analysis broadens and by 
subtle degrees Freud approaches the major problem, 
the psychic essence of this personality. He provides 
the long-sought explanation of the daemonic ele- 
ments in Dostoyevsky's life and work. He shows 
them to be the play of hidden instinctual forces 
against opposing impulses. The daemon is not alien 
to the ego, but merely alienated. Daemonic im- 
pulses are not newcomers in the psyche; they are 
merely the reappearance of old, submerged drives. 
The inner relation between Dostoyevsky's fate and 
that of his characters becomes clearer; in both there 
is waged the same struggle between elemental in- 
stinctual forces and the forces of conscience, that 
conscience which is the perpetuation of the more 
ancient struggle between the still feeble ego and the 
outer world. 

Freud has wonderful insight into how such 
conflicts were bound up with Dostoyevsky's reli- 
gious and nationalistic views, however apart they 
may seem. He shows us how they figured in both 
the personality of the poet and of his characters, for 
these latter are personifications of the potentialities 
of the ego; they are the developed offshoots of the 
ego. When Freud links up Oedipus, Hamlet, and 
the Brothers Karamazov, drawing comparisons be- 
tween them as various facets of the same latent 
content, he thereby contributes profoundly to our 



understanding of the basic human instincts which 
impel men's lives, whatever the times, the culture, 
the race or the person. The laws have been obscure, 
but they are becoming ever more accessible. 

The last section of the study concerns itself 
with an extremely interesting interpretation of Dos- 
toyevsky's passion for gambling. Freud's surpris- 
ing, but persuasive theory is that this passion is 
derived from the onanism compulsion in the child. 
The unsuccessful efforts to overcome the habit and 
the resultant self-castigation find their parallel in 
the compulsion to gamble. This observation illumi- 
nates a complex and little-understood aspect of Dos- 
toyevsky's life. 

We may notice an abrupt transition between 
this section and the main theme. Perhaps our im- 
pression is that the author has turned arbitrarily to 
this new subject because it interests him and not 
because it has any special connection with the whole. 
And yet there is a very definite organic connection. 
What inspires the efforts to suppress the onanism 
is nothing else but fear of the father. This Freud 
intimates in a single word at the end of the section. 

Unfortunately, Freud breaks off his analysis at 
this point. Had he continued, I believe he would 
have pointed out how the gambling passion later 
assumes a form whose psychic motivation and 
mechanisms are akin to certain obsession symp- 
toms. Gambling, which never had as its end money 
or gain, becomes a kind of question addressed to 




destiny. It is a form of oracle which the modern 
psyche readily accepts, although this latent meaning 
does not become conscious. Now, recalling that des- 
tiny is the ultimate father surrogate, we see the sig- 
nificance in the unconscious of this questioning. 
Originally it sought to discover whether or not 
expectation of evil was justified. In other words, 
would the threatened punishment for the trespass 
be carried out or would the angered father forgive 
the son's disobedience? Good or bad luck stands as 
symbol of the answer. Observing the rules of the 
game is the psychological equivalent of obedience 
to the compulsive neurotic symptoms. Uncertainty 
plays the same role in gambling as it does in the 
compulsion complex. Take, for example, a game 
like patience. Here we can see clearly the oracular 
meaning, which is obscured in other games where 
new players may enter late and where the prime 
purpose seems to be gain. 

We have certain criticisms to make, even as 
we realize that this is the most valuable psycho- 
logical work on Dostoyevsky we possess. Our first 
criticism is directed to the section just discussed. In 
this section Freud adduces the example of a story 
by Stefan Zweig.* Which are the connecting links? 
the following: here the gambling compulsion of 

* Our analytic interpretation of this novella is facilitated 
by the fact that the very next story in the volume treats (in 
transparent disguise) of the incestuous and tragic relationship 
between father and daughter. 



Dostoyevsky, there the same passion in one of the 
characters of Zweig's story. Stefan Zweig has de- 
voted himself to a study of Dostoyevsky. We must 
confess that these are few and very loose connec- 
tions. They serve as the barest possible reason for 
dragging in such an illustration, but there is cer- 
tainly no reason for the lengthy summary of the 
Zweig story. It seems strange that Freud, usually so 
good at ordering his material economically, should 
devote four pages out of a twenty-six-page study of 
Dostoyevsky — nearly one-sixth, that is — to a paren- 
thetical illustration. With all due respect to Zweig's 
literary merit, we cannot help feeling that this is an 
error in proportion. It is as though a medieval 
artist painting the Passion of Christ should place in 
the foreground of the picture the bishop of his na- 
tive diocese. 

There is another criticism, perhaps equally 
minor. In his introduction Freud separates Dos- 
toyevsky 's personality into four principal aspects: 
the poet, the neurotic, the moralist, and the sinner. 
Should he not have given recognition to another 
aspect, that of the great psychologist? (Perhaps 
Freud includes the psychologist with the poet, yet 
it would seem worthy of special mention.) Ours is 
a time when every mediocre psychotherapeutic prac- 
titioner thinks the psyche is an open book to him — 
and every lowly assistant at a neurologic clinic 
who has read Freud with happy carelessness and 



thorough misunderstanding believes he knows the 
human mind up and down. In such a time as this, 
we feel, it would be fitting that one of the greatest 
psychologists should salute the poet who was one 
of his great precursors, a salutation out of his own 
solitude to the other's solitude. 

In this study the rapid, compressed style of 
Freud's last writings is evident, but here, in har- 
mony with the subject, it is fluid and emotional in 
spite of its density. Many of his phrases are stamped 
forever in my memory because they were expressed 
in a language which was a rare union of succinct- 
ness and comprehensiveness, forcefulness and deli- 
cacy, directness and richness of association. 

Our ultimate impression remains that this 
study of Freud's has an honored place in the scien- 
tific literature on Dostoyevsky — and more. For this 
penetration into the deepest levels of the psyche, this 
revelation of a man's unique, hidden qualities and 
of the qualities he shares with all men — such vision 
is something new in applied psychology, something 
which did not exist before psychoanalysis. 



"... I have read your critical review of my 
Dostoyevsky study with great pleasure. All your ob- 
jections are worth considering, and certain of them 
I admit have hit the nail on the head. However, there 
are some points I can advance in my own defense 



that are, you understand, not quibblings over who is 
right and who wrong. 

I think you have applied too high a standard to 
this trivial essay. It was written as a favor for some- 
one and written reluctantly. I always write reluctantly 
nowadays. I know that you observed that this was 
so. Naturally, I am not saying this to justify hasty 
or distorted judgments, but merely to explain the 
careless architecture of the whole. It cannot be dis- 
puted that the parenthetical Zweig analysis disturbs 
the balance. If we look deeper, we can probably find 
what was the purpose for its addition. Had I been 
free to disregard the place where the essay was to 
appear, I would certainly have written: 'We may 
diagnose that in the history of a neurosis character- 
ized by so severe a guilt-feeling, the struggle with 
onanism plays a special part. This diagnosis is com- 
pletely confirmed by Dostoyevsky's pathologic pas- 
sion for gambling. For, as we see in a story by 
Zweig , . .' That is, the attention devoted to Zweig' s 
story is not dictated by the relationship of Zweig to 
Dostoyevsky, but of onanism to neurosis. Still, it did 
take an awkward turn. 

I will hold to my belief in a scientifically objec- 
tive social standard of ethics, and therefore I would 
not contest in the least the upright philistine's right 
to call his behavior good and moral, even though he 
has attained it at the cost of little self-conquest. At 
the same time I will grant your subjective, psycho- 
logical view of ethics. Although I agree with your 
opinions on the world and present-day man, I can- 

[ 174] 


not, as you know, share your pessimistic rejection of 
a better future. 

Certainly I subsumed Dostoyevsky the psychol- 
ogist under the poet. I might also have charged 
against him that his insight was so entirely re- 
stricted to the workings of the abnormal psyche. 
Consider his astounding helplessness before the phe- 
nomena of love; he really only understands either 
crude, instinctive desire or masochistic submission 
and love from pity. You are also quite right in your 
assumption that I do not really like Dostoyevsky, 
despite all my admiration for his power and nobility. 
That comes from the fact that my patience with 
pathological natures is completely exhausted in my 
daily work. In art and life I am intolerant toward 
them. That is a personal trait, not binding on others. 

Where do you intend to publish your essay? I 
think very highly of it. Scientific research alone 
must work without prejudices. With all other think- 
ing it is impossible to avoid choosing a point of view, 
and naturally there are many possible ones. . . ." 

oj. ri£i jXl 

<tF * 9P 

Freud gave me permission in 1929 to publish 
this fine letter. It serves as an excellent refutation 
of the stupid allegations about Freud's dogmatism 
and his pessimistic view of life. 

The remark on Dostoyevsky's limited under- 
standing of love gives me a welcome opening for 
quoting another of Freud's comments on love. "Les 



Cahiers Contemporains" published in Paris in 1926 
a little book called Au dela de V amour which con- 
tained a questionnaire on the essence of love beyond 
the realm of sex. Here is Freud's answer: 

"My Dear Sir: 

It is quite impossible for me to fulfil your re- 

quest. Really, you ask too much. Up to the present 

I have not yet found the courage to make any broad 
statements on the essence of love, and I think that 
our knowledge is not sufficient. 

Very truly yours, 


[i 7 6] 





It was my habit to dedicate and to send a little 
analytical essay to Freud on his successive birth- 
days in token of my regard. What follows is a se- 
lection from such little articles. 



IT is not long now before some analyst of our 
group must undertake an investigation of the 
psychology of greeting. However, there is so much 
material interesting from both ethnological and psy- 
chological points of view that this future investi- 
gator will have quite enough on his hands. Perhaps 
he may overlook one aspect which is not unimpor- 
tant : embarrassment in greeting. 

Freud has already pointed to the difficulties be- 
setting obsessional neurotics in regard to greeting. 
He has called attention particularly to those difficul- 
ties which have to do with removing the hat. But 
embarrassment in greeting is a more general phe- 
nomenon. By it we mean the embarrassment felt by 
many persons on meeting someone whom they are 
obliged to greet. They are troubled not so much by 
whether or not they should greet the other person, 
as by how to do so. One patient brooded constantly 
on how high to lift his hat and how low to bow, 
that he might not be either too familiar or too 
humble. Uncertainty about the greeting itself is a 
manifestation of ambivalence, particularly in obses- 
sional neurotics. The aforementioned patient, in an 
ordinary handshake, had difficulty in finding my 



hand ; he kept groping for it, touching the sleeve of 
my coat, and making similar mistakes. Our hands 
were in the dilemma of the lovers in the song who 
could not come together. 

The content and form of the greeting are the 
cause of manifold individual difficulties and uncer- 
tainties, even when the relationship between the 
persons appears superficially to be sailing smoothly. 
It is as though the unconscious impulses have con- 
centrated upon this isolated detail of personal in- 
tercourse, as though this were the sole outlet for 
the repressed elements. One of my patients had 
the habit of unconsciously ignoring people toward 
whom he consciously bore no grudge. Later on he 
would greet them heartily. It was as though they 
had fallen into disgrace for a short period and were 
then received back into his favor. Analysis was 
necessary to explain this apparently causeless pe- 
riodical snubbing of people. The same patient had 
established a greeting ritual which consisted in his 
first overlooking a person who greeted him, passing 
by and then turning around as though he had just 
recognized him — an act analogous to what does oc- 
casionally happen. If he had to speak to someone in 
greeting, he felt a mild embarrassment, as if he 
ought somehow to be ashamed. This feeling often 
expressed itself in stuttering. Clearly, he had come, 
by regression, to color the greeting with its primi- 
tive sexual significance. He would often anxiously 
prolong a conversation with an indifferent stranger 



because he dreaded the difficulty he would have in 
bidding good-bye. 

All this points to the fact that the greeting 
must unconsciously have greater significance than 
we are willing to admit. When someone greets us 
carelessly and impolitely, although we think we do 
not really give a hang, we are offended. And do we 
not feel a burning sense of shame when, as some- 
times happens, an older person, toward whom we 
cherish particular respect, is the first to give the 
greeting ? It is as though we had committed an un- 
pardonable error — although we are prepared to 
swear that we actually had not seen the person in 

But putting aside pathologic intensification and 
coarsening, it is true that embarrassment in greet- 
ing also attacks, though to a lesser extent, normal 
people. We are not at a loss for an explanation. 
What happens is that sexual and aggressive tend- 
encies, acting unconsciously, interfere with the so- 
cial conventions. The sexual significance is easily 
seen when we imagine the shy boy who blushingly 
trails after "her" and suddenly finds that he must 
greet his beloved; or the girl who must respond to 
the greeting of her admirer. When it is the aggres- 
sive impulses that provoke the embarrassment, they 
lead to numerous inhibitions and alterations of the 
greeting, as well as to slips in the act of greeting. 
They may ultimately exact the total suppression of 
the greeting. 

[ 181 ] 


We perceive readily that the greeting, though 
a trivial detail of social life, holds an unconscious 
affective value for us which we do not consciously 
ascribe to it. But how did this affect settle upon a 
trivial detail? Such a displacement would be impos- 
sible if that detail had not once had a certain vital 
importance. Once we realize this, we see the greet- 
ing in a different light; it would seem to have devel- 
oped from the primitive, undifferentiated, instinct- 
governed form of first approach which was expres- 
sive of either hostility or love. From this it devel- 
oped slowly to its present more friendly meaning. 
Gradually it took over the function of assuring the 
other person that the greater will forego the grati- 
fication of aggressive desires. Finally it became 
crystallized to a conventional gesture. Homo homini 
lupus — the primitive stage of the greeting, which is 
practiced by dogs who approach one another and 
warily sniff about, has still survived in the nose- 
greeting of many peoples. 

Remembering that the greeting originated in 
this way, through inhibition and repression of ag- 
gressive and sexual impulses, we see clearly why in 
cases of regression the greeting becomes compli- 
cated by so many uncertainties and embarrassments. 
The repressed emotions and desires in the greeting 
have not yet entirely been killed. In the cool or 
haughty greeting these repressed elements break 
forth. Nestroy has one of his characters say : "How 
nice it is that you have to lay your hand in some- 



one's hand, when you'd like best to lay it across his 

Unconscious hostility and mistrust have other 
dwelling places besides the greeting; they are the 
secret behind other initiating ceremonies of social 
intercourse, for these were once tantamount to de- 
fense measures, securities against the dangers that 
threaten from all sides, against the universal hos- 
tility of men to men. The introduction, which has 
become the accepted method of making acquaint- 
ances in our society, is certainly one of such uncon- 
scious pacts — unfortunately often insufficient. Here, 
too, embarrassment betrays the inhibitions and un- 
certainties which arise from the same source. 

Society has created these necessary defense 
measures, which are analogous to those of the indi- 
vidual obsessional neurotic, similar in structure and 
equally applicable to so many equivocal situations. 
Sometimes an accident exposes the truth that m our 
society men become utterly at a loss when they are 
forced to dispense with these ceremonies. Robbed of 
their guaranty, they feel as anxious and helpless as 
the obsessional neurotic whom the pressure of outer 
circumstance has forced to abandon a ritual. There 
is the well-known anecdote of the first meeting of 
Livingstone and Stanley. After surmounting count- 
less difficulties and following a hundred false trails, 
Stanley finally found the long-lost Livingstone in 
the midst of the primeval African jungle. When the 



two Englishmen first stood before each other under 
such romantic circumstances, they remained stock- 
still, as though enchanted, for a moment. It was a 
moment full of doubt and embarrassment. They had 
not been introduced. 



It is more than fifteen years since, in Rein- 
hardt's theater in Berlin, I saw a play called 
The Jews by a Russian author I did not know, 
Eugen Tschirikov. It describes the life of the Jew- 
ish settlements in northern Russia around the turn 
of this century. I remember the plot only rather 
hazily. In my memory the characters have few per- 
sonal qualities. The three acts take place in the 
dwelling of the watchmaker, Leiser Frankel. This 
old man will soon be left solitary — his son has 
joined the revolutionary socialists and his daughter 
has given herself to a Christian student. The strug- 
gle between the generations is here waged all the 
more bitterly because the family feeling of these 
people is so much deeper, more fervent, and more 

My memory still retains the picture of the mo- 
ment when news arrives of pogroms having broken 
out in the neighboring villages. Impressions: the 
swelling noise, the screaming of a fanatical, goaded 
mob becomes a bestial roar, the fear of the helpless 
people in the watchmaker's shop grows, until the 
mob bursts in like a torrent, tearing and killing, 
assaulting the dying daughter and cutting down the 



men — and, at last, when everything has been de- 
stroyed, how the Cossacks ride up and disperse the 

The impression of these dramatic scenes was 
strong. But it is tarnished by time. In memory 
these figures no longer seem more than dramatis 
personae; they are hardly living human beings. 
They are types: the gentle, but strong-willed 
daughter, who loves her father but nevertheless 
must tear herself away from him; the son, who is 
expelled from the university because of his revolu- 
tionary activity; a liberal doctor who still clings to 
religion; a wasted, ailing teacher, who defends 
Zionism with as much ardor as the son and his 
friend give to the socialist cause. The arguments 
and debates which fill the three acts seem as shad- 
owy as these characters. The impressions would 
have been more memorable, had the drama been 
other than a competent and crudely theatrical piece. 
With its simple-minded propaganda and its strong 
effects, true to the events of the time, it is an 
execrable piece of work; but it is not without skil- 
ful dramatic pitch. 

Why then, when I wish to write about a 
particular theme, does my memory resurrect this 
trivial play? What remains besides the outline of 
the plot, which exhibits, though with little art, the 
vital problems of the Eastern Jews ? What rises out 
of the darkness, what words still echo, when after 
fifteen years one again recalls the performance? 



There come to me two scenes; or rather, phrases in 
these scenes, words and the silences in the dialogue 
— nothing more. But these, unlike the others, are 
not the stock-in-trade of a hack playwright; they 
are the stuff of life. 

In the first scene the watchmaker's brother, 
Aaron Frankel, who has come on a visit from the 
neighboring village, converses with his niece. The 
girl tells him that she and her brother have been 
expelled from the university because of the riots. 
"Ai-ai-ai," Aaron cries sadly, "you were always 
such a quiet girlchik." And when the pretty niece 
assures him that she is still quiet, he adds, "You'd 
do better to marry. Then you'll have children and 
your own rebels on your hands." 

He goes on to tell her what has happened in 
his settlement. Every city and every village of this 
region includes another little settlement within 
whose bounds only the Jews may live. Packed to- 
gether, they vegetate in this tiny, doubly impris- 
oned district. To be sure, they are very poor, "but, 
thank God, they have many children." 

Because of the many children their quarter 
became too small and their cemetery stretched out 
into the city. They hope to buy property for a ceme- 
tery outside of the city, but the authorities have re- 
fused permission, on the grounds that this property 
would extend beyond the prescribed settlement area. 
The authorities have so interpreted the law that a 
dead Jew is also counted in the population. After 



many efforts on the part of the Jews, the ministry 
finally consents to their buying the property and 
burying their dead there. But then a new obstacle 
arises: the cemetery must have a watchman. But 
the watchman is a Jew, and he may not live outside 
of the ghetto. Somebody who is listening to the 
story interjects, "There is only one way out; take 
a dead man as watchman." But the situation gives 
rise to still other difficulties. While the authorities 
do not permit a watchman to be assigned to the 
new cemetery, they also no longer allow the Jewish 
sanitary officials to bury the dead in the old ceme- 
tery. And there still rings in my ears the Yiddish 
intonation of the next sentence, "But, you see, the 
Jews couldn't wait and one of them took the liberty 
of dying." 

The other scene is at the close of the first act; 
it is in the watchmaker's shop, a low-ceilinged room 
in the basement. The walls are hung with watches 
and clocks, big and small. The pendulums beat out 
an incessant tick-tock throughout the scene. In this 
room an ardent debate is going on. The son of the 
family and his Christian friend are hotly arguing 
that the teachings of Marx are the only solution to 
the Jewish problem. The nervous little teacher in- 
sists that Zionism is the only way. Every possible 
argument, both intelligent and foolish, is intro- 
duced, and the quarrel becomes ever more passion- 
ate. It leads from allusion to direct attacks, from 
fine sarcasm to crude insults, from laughter to the 

[ 188 ] 


nervous sobbings of the fanatical teacher. Then all 
the clocks in the shop suddenly begin to strike 
twelve, one after the other. In the silence that fol- 
lows comes the tranquil voice of the old watch- 
maker, Reb Leiser, who with his long white beard 
and bushy brows looks like an ancient patriarch: 
"For ten years I've wanted all my clocks to chime 
out at once. And yet it never would work. They are 
like human beings — they can't get together." 

The human and artistic mediocrity of this 
drama robs it of any lasting effect. What it said 
had often been said before. Still, how is it that the 
drama of the ruin and defeat of those people who 
are so closely related to me by blood and fate did 
not have a more profound effect? Where is bred 
that psychic reaction that goes beyond the moment, 
that outlasts the immediate excitement of the the- 
ater ? I believe it has taken refuge in these few re- 
membered phrases, in my memory of these few 
jesting words. The affect was unconsciously trans- 
ferred to them. The anger and sorrow, the fear 
and sympathy that arose while I looked at these 
scenes out of the life of the insulted and injured 
were not, in memory, associated with the plot of the 
play. These emotions had broken away from the 
plot, as though that were inessential, and had be- 
come fixed to these three sentences, as containing 
all the psychic significance of the play. The tua res 
agitur was here not born from the tragic experience, 
but from the humorous sidelight of the experience. 



In our smiling at this jest is latent all our sympa- 
thetically shared experience, and all our sorrow is 
concealed in it. Memory seized these fleeting words 
instead of the great tragic events. In these sec- 
ondary matters, however, reside the human quali- 
ties of Tschirikov's play. The transference of the 
affect in the unconscious is not voluntary, nor is it 
accidental. It means a change of its capital, but no 
loss of power. These characters speak to me more 
poignantly in their jokes than in their plaints and 
accusations. Otherwise they are puppets dangled 
here and there by an all-powerful hand and then 
struck down. But when they joke, the figurines are 
transformed into men. Jehovah has forbidden the 
Jew of our time to speak His word to cajole the 
hostile world. But by giving him the gift of wit, his 
God has conferred on him the power to say what 
he suffers. 

The unconscious affective transference in me 
follows a familiar pattern. Moreover, the psycholo- 
gist understands Jewish wit to have undergone the 
same process of affective transference from its 
origins. This history of transference provides us 
with an explanation of one quality of this wit which 
has largely passed unnoticed and is therefore all the 
more notable. We laugh at it, but usually it is not 
comical. In the best examples of this humor there 
lurks behind the comic facade not merely something 
serious, as in other witticisms, but something hor- 



It is no accident that now, when I wish to 
muster up some impressions on the nature of Jewish 
wit, I can call to mind none of the countless anec- 
dotes ("Two Jews meet on the street and . . ."). 
It is no accident that instead, fearful pictures of 
pogrom scenes from a forgotten play flash through 
my mind and a few phrases from that play come 
back to me. These phrases do not clarify the nature 
of Jewish wit so much as they do the circumstances 
from which it is born, the peculiarities of its psychic 
origins. These witty sentences, which are spoken 
out of the darkness of a destiny unique among the 
peoples of earth, give us a clue to many other psy- 
chological insights. For we see that the unconscious 
affective transference which motivated the creator 
of Jewish wit was repeated in the generations of 
listeners and determined the psychic effect. 

Perhaps these examples will also serve to give 
a first impression of the character of this wit; they 
are selected for their type value and not for their 
aesthetic value. Although only examples, they may 
stand for large classes of Jewish wit. The uncle's 
advice to the pretty student that she marry, instead 
of mixing in university riots ("Then you'll have 
children and your own rebels on your hands,") is 
an example of the charming and idyllic wit of this 
people. There is — particularly in the East where the 
Jews form a fairly unified cultural and social group 
— a surprising wealth of jokes and witticisms of 
this kind, springing up afresh every day and van- 

[ 191 ] 


ishing with the day. This kind of harmless, friendly, 
and teasing remark flourishes best in the atmos- 
phere of a family; but the Jews find it natural to 
extend that atmosphere. Here, allusion, joke, and 
witticism often merge with one another until they 
are indistinguishable. The familiarity so natural to 
their soul is testimony o£ mutual confidence and 
good faith. This kind of Jewish witticism is often 
inspired with a practical sagacity and knowledge 
of human nature which one does not recognize until 
long after one has smiled at the joke. A witty 
proverb like this Eastern Jewish one: "When the 
father gives to the son, both laugh; when the son 
gives to the father, both weep," reveals behind the 
words a rare insight into the psychic depths, one 
which surpasses the run of proverbial wisdom com- 
mon to all the folk, 

Aaron F ranker's tale of the cemetery incident in 
the ghetto and the authorities* decision that a dead 
Jew may not rest beyond the pale of the ghetto, is 
pointed at the end by the remark that a poor Jew, 
unable to wait for the end of the litigation, was so 
bold as to die. This story is typical of another kind 
of Jewish humor. The type hangs on the border- 
line between the merry and the bitterly satiric. In it 
the pathos — in the Greek sense: suffering — is in- 
verted and seeks expression in laughter, in a grimace 
of mockery and revolt. Here Ahasuerus speaks and 
falls silent; here is the wandering, ever -persecuted 
Jew whom distress has taught how to pray — and 



also how to joke. Here a man murmurs a jest or 
shrugs in an ironic gesture, instead of screaming 
aloud and striking out in his rage and desperation. 
But this kind of wit also strikes with the keenness of 
the sword. We see this in the Bible and in Jewish 
writers down to our own day. Their sword is wielded 
by the mighty hand of hatred. 

But when, after the fierce, passionate argument, 
old Reb Leiser stands up, points to the clocks, and 
utters those three remarkable sentences, it is no 
longer hate that speaks. It is the power of love. 
When the old watchmaker takes advantage of the 
momentary silence to say that for ten years he has 
tried to harmonize all his clocks, but in vain, for like 
men they cannot get together, he is speaking with 
the wisdom of untold lines of ancestors behind that 
of his own long life. Behind this man in the caftan 
there stand priests and prophets, a long line of men 
who hearkened to the laws of human destiny. These 
three plain sentences, this analogy which shows us 
its comic face, bridge the gap of several thousands 
of years to the proverbs of the Fathers and the im- 
passioned words of an Isaiah. While our lips are still 
smiling we feel the mounting awe. From a jest we 
are here conducted straight into the realm of the sa- 
cred, and a banal, everyday snatch of tune is trans- 
posed into eternal melody. In a word lightly spoken, 
which sounds like a joke and possibly is intended as 
a joke, we overhear the ultimate longing and sorrow 



of man. There is something in this kind of Jewish 
wit which makes us bow our heads. 

This is the selfsame wit in wisdom and wisdom 
in wit which, generation after generation, the Jews 
have salvaged out of their own lives and the lives of 
others; the same which illuminates the Talmud and 
the writings of its commentators, the legends and 
parables of the Hasidim and the addresses of so 
many rabbis. There is no essential difference be- 
tween witticisms of this kind, which spring from the 
deep fund of ancient experiences, and the profound 
thoughts of the sages of this people. Rabbi Mendel 
Kozker, answering a boy who had asked, "Where 
does God live ?" replied, "Wherever He is admitted." 
In such an epigram there dwells the same spirit that 
speaks out of the remark of the watchmaker, Reb 

Now, at last, looking back upon these sin- 
gle examples of the charming, bitterly ironic, and 
worldly-wise classes of Jewish wit, I perceive how it 
is that the unconscious affective transference came 
about. What do these witticisms say so brilliantly 
but the very things which the drama on the stage 
vainly tried to say with brutal effects. When, in the 
course of the play, a storm of pillage, murder, and 
destruction sweeps away all that these poor people 
possess, the tragedy rings loud. But it is more em- 
phatic in the overtones to the witticisms. The news 
that so and so many people have been slain in a 
pogrom excites us to rage and disgust, and even to 



despair of the progress of human civilization. But 
the things that are said in these jokes, and more im- 
portant, what is not said in these jokes, shake us to 
the roots of our selves. 

Aaron Frankel tells his story of the cemetery, 
the grotesque tragedy of this small group of human 
beings, persecuted, deprived of a corner of land in 
life and of six feet of land in death. And this story 
makes tragedy clearer to us than any blood -arid- 
thunder pogrom scene can make it. He advises his 
niece to bear children, and with rebels in her own 
home to be distracted from the imperative of rebel- 
ling against the state; thus his humorous remark 
preaches the epbemerality and insignificance of po- 
litical movements more clearly than all the hot de- 
bates in the play. And beneath this advice is whis- 
pered an inkling of the real values of personal life: 
it is the instincts which govern the fate of all the 
generations. Is it really so important to revolt 
against the form of government, to overthrow this 
regime or that, when after all our lives must describe 
the little circle of joy and sorrow in the same un- 
alterable way ? 

It is this that was insinuated first in the com- 
parison of the clocks — but now it has gained a more 
solemn beat. Here, too, is a warning of the shortness 
of our span on earth and the folly of our little quar- 
rels over what we imagine are such irreconcilable 
matters. But here this thought is expressed more 
poignantly and with greater grace. Those clocks 



which the old man has vainly essayed to harmonize 
are, perhaps, each convinced of the infallibility of 
his time, and each is proud of his own manner. But 
it is not long before their works run down. The rest 
is silence. 

The affect produced by the re-enactment of ugly 
persecution was quite properly transferred to a few 
witticisms. For these jests say what the author 
wanted to say and say it better than the rest of his 

And in these examples we see the essence of 
Jewish wit, with its inseparable joining of thought 
and emotion. Here, too, a heavy shadow falls across 
the brightness of the words ; sorrow is the usurper 
of the kingdom of jest. Here, too, the tragic coun- 
tenance of the world is reflected along with its comic 
mask. One face often lurks concealed in another, as 
in a puzzle picture. Jewish wit, like great art, never 
palls, for it deals with human passions which it 
conceals and at the same time unveils. Its comedy 
is intensified by the dumbshow of another force — 

[ 196 ] 


As psychologists we find much of interest to us 
- in the poetic imagination ; its prerequisites and 
goals, the ideational material upon which it is 
founded, and the psychic processes that shape it. 
Certain questions of artistic creation lie beyond the 
scope of psychoanalysis ; others have as yet not been 
touched by the science. But it is psychoanalytical 
research which has explored furthest toward the 
sources of artistic imagination. Our approach to 
poetic creation as something comparable with the 
dream and the daydream has proved especially fruit- 
ful. But although both the unconscious motives and 
the dynamics of poetic creation have to a large ex- 
tent become accessible to our understanding, there 
still remains much that is cryptic. We shall welcome 
all new ideas, even fragmentary ones, should they 
afford us some new insight into the inscrutable ac- 
tivities of the poetic imagination. 

I recently chanced in an odd way upon just such 
a new insight It seems to me that it not only clarifies 
the origin of a poetic idea, but also describes the un- 
derground and intricate phases of this idea before 
it came to its final form. 



Most Shakespeare lovers must feel that Ariel's 
song in The Tempest is one of the most beautiful 
and enchanting products of the poet's imagination. 
Mysteriously consoling, the spirit speaks to the 
grieving Ferdinand : 

"Full fathom five thy father lies; 
Of his bones are coral made ; 
Those are pearls that were his eyes; 
Nothing of him that doth fade 
But doth suffer a sea-change 
Into something rich and strange . . ." 

Here in the sea the rotting corpse of the king is 
transmuted bit by bit into priceless treasure. And 
what we admire in this is the effortless power, the 
wonderful richness of imagination, the "imagina- 
tion complete" which Taine praises in the incom- 
parable poet. 

To my knowledge, no biographer or commen- 
tator has yet compared this beautiful song with Ham- 
let's meditations in the graveyard scene, thoughts 
that are in direct contradiction to Ariel's. Earlier in 
the play Hamlet has already spoken of the fate of the 
dead. The king asks him where is the corpse of the 
murdered Polonius. "At supper," is Hamlet's reply. 
And he adds, "Not where he eats, but where he is 
eaten: . . . we fat all creatures else to fat us, and 
we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and 
your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, 
but to one table: that's the end." Pursuing this no- 



tion, Hamlet's imagination leads him to the thought 
that "a man may fish with the worm that hath eat of 
a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that 
worm." He wishes to show "how a king may go a 
progress through the guts of a beggar." 

In this conversation between the king and Ham- 
let, what does it matter where the body of Polonius 
lies? If he is not found within a month, the dead 
courtier would be "nosed." What the prince inti- 
mates by this pointed and intentionally equivocal in- 
formation is this : that even the king who has seized 
the throne and the queen — that is, all earthly goods 
— must go the way of all flesh. It reminds him that 
the fat king and the lean beggar are in the end but 
two dishes upon the worm's one table. Here is the 
threat, the satanic mockery that comes into the open, 
mockery which is more terrible than the terrors of 
conscience in besetting the ultimate solitude of man. 
The attack does not pause this side of the concept of 
death. It does not shrink before this stark picture 
of dissolution. Hatred stalks its object far beyond 
the grave. With something close to reverence, Ham- 
let's hatred muses upon every aspect of rotting and 

These same ideas, stripped of all that is tempo- 
ral and extended beyond their personal source, ap- 
pear again in that graveyard scene, whose atmos- 
phere is thick with terror of mortality. The dialogue 
of the two graved iggers and their conversation with 
Hamlet, the horrible jokes played among the graves, 



make up one of the most glorious scenes the great 
poet ever created — this poet who wrote : "For I am 
shamed by that which I bring forth." (Sonnet 

Again and again there starts forth the mysteri- 
ous curiosity the prince seems to feel about decay. 
("How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot!") 
When he looks upon the skull of Yorick, his imagi- 
nation runs swiftly over the long years since he 
kissed these lips to this moment when the dead man, 
nay, death himself, grins at him out of the empty 
sockets of the eyes. 

Here, out of unsearchable imagination, there 
issues a sublime and bizarre thought. "Dost thou 
think," he asks his friend, "Alexander looked o' this 
fashion i' the earth?" 

Horatio. E'en so. 

Hamlet. And smelt so? pah! 

Horatio. E'en so, my lord. 

"Why," asks Hamlet, "may not imagination 
trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stop- 
ping a bung-hole?" From there it may come with 
"likelihood to lead it : as thus : Alexander died, Alex- 
ander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; 
the dust is earth ; of earth we make loam ; and why 
of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they 
not stop a beer-barrel ? 

Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, 
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away : 


O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, 
Should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw !" 

Here, in this churchyard scene, the transitori- 
ness and vanity of man's life has become word. Not 
gravestones, but the bones themselves have their say. 
Those who have once lived return to poke fun at 
the belief in immortality, as in that incomparable 
sketch of Goya's of a dead man rising out of the 
grave and writing with bony finger the word, 

If from the philosophy of his main characters 
we may construe something about the poet's own 
ideas, we must assume that Shakespeare underwent 
a profound change in the period between Hamlet 
and his last work, The Tempest. But is it not rash 
to postulate a psychic change from this evidence that 
he changed his conception of the state of the human 
body after death? This is, after all, but a solitary 
instance. There are a bare ten years between the 
statements of these two opposing conceptions — ten 
years which may mean so much or so little to a hu- 
man life. What do these contradictory views tell us 
of the man, William Shakespeare ? 

What we know of his life is scanty and uncer- 
tain. The few dates of his existence, which was such 
a strange compound of romanticism and sobriety, 
rebellion and complacency, afford us little satisfac- 
tory information. And we psychologists are hardly 
interested in the outward events, as such, of this life. 



They are nothing but a scaffolding to help us erect 
our structure. Psychic processes alone are impor- 
tant ; we are concerned only with details of his psy- 
chic biography. 


Since we proceed from this special standpoint, 
we have the right to choose our own paths in follow- 
ing the genesis of the poet's idea. These paths lie off 
the beaten track of aestheticians and historians of 
literature. Since we are concerned only with psychic 
processes, why may we not compare Shakespeare's 
imagination with that of a patient suffering from 
obsessional neurosis ? What does it matter that more 
than three hundred years have passed since Ariel's 
song was first composed? The misery and the happi- 
ness of men spring from the same sources ; their es- 
sential ideas are unchanged, despite their airplanes, 
telephones, and radios. And all the divisions and dis- 
tinctions that men wear fall from them like scorched 
rags in the fire of the inexorable fate that all must 

The patient we have in mind is an aging woman 
who has suffered much. Now that she has been dis- 
appointed in her hopes, separated from her hus- 
band, become poverty-stricken, been deserted by her 
friends (those whom she herself has not alienated by 
her bitterness), much of her time is occupied with 
thoughts of death. At first she aimed a fierce de- 
fiance against a fate which external circumstance 
and certain psychic bents had brought upon her. 



But later she spent many hours considering suicide. 
At one time she had envisaged another possibility — 
that her life would end in insanity. Her mother, after 
the menopause, had become melancholic and had died 
many years afterward in an insane asylum. 

In the course of analysis it became clear that 
her troubled marital life played a main role in her 
psyche, as did her tendency to identify herself with 
her mother. Her thoughts had turned early to the 
mystery of death, even when she was a girl. Now the 
thought again became prominent in the mind of the 
aging woman from whom so many sacrifices had 
been exacted. The question of immortality, and a 
transcendental survival of the ego after death, came 
to the fore. The prevailing attitude of her social 
group was that death was an end, but that seemed 
insipid and senseless to her; she refused to listen to 
such rationalistic views of the nature of growth and 
dissolution, and endeavored to gather strength to 
commit suicide by denying the reality of that great 
boundary line. 

In the course of the analysis she constantly re- 
ferred to this theme. Although voluntary renuncia- 
tion was the only possible way, she could not bring 
herself to relinquish the things she had lived by. In- 
stead she defiantly resisted reality, preferring to die 
rather than submit to a fate which had treated her 
with so much less justice than other women. She 
spent most of her days experiencing a wealth of 
phantasies on dying and the state of the soul after 



death. Literary reminiscences may have been the 
sources for some of these phantasies. But many of 
them are indubitably original, and their beauty and 
intuitive clarity is undeniable. Death meant to her 
only a transition from one kind of living to another; 
she compared the process to the working of leather 
in a tannery in order to prepare it for different uses. 
It was like turning off an electric bulb in a room in 
order to switch on another in the same room. When 
earthly life is extinguished, the self is transported to 
other universes; perhaps it shines as a new star in 
the sky. 

But I thought the most beautiful of these meta- 
phors was the following: "A zoologist once told me 
what he did with a viper he had killed. He put it into 
a big, strong cardboard box and buried the box in 
the earth. After several weeks he dug up the box. 
During the interval the ants had eaten away all the 
flesh and muscle-fiber of the snake. The skeleton was 
perfectly whole and untouched. Every part of it 
gleamed like a pearl in the sunlight. Who can say? 
Perhaps, when I die, I shall become like this and 
sparkle as a bracelet, or as a necklace upon the throat 
of some great goddess." 

Here we have the same metaphor that Shake- 
speare uses for the father of Ferdinand. 


What can psychoanalysis contribute to psycho- 
logical understanding of this beautiful image which 



emerged from the death phantasies of a sick woman ? 
"We have already learned that all these phantasies re- 
vert to a youthful concern with the problem of death. 
When the patient was a little girl her fully de- 
veloped obsessional neurosis had consisted mainly in 
inhibitory reactions to death wishes which had the 
mother for object. These partly repressed obsessions, 
in a later stage of development, did not stop at death. 
They led to brooding on the state of man after 
death. All the while, the hate tendencies struggle 
against the love tendencies. In these psychic conflicts 
the idea of the progressive dissolution of loved per- 
sons became paramount. Again and again there rose 
in her mind terrible visions of the decomposition of 
the body. Analysis showed that these obsessions, 
which the patient fought with all her might, re- 
curred constantly in spite of the repression; they 
bore all the marks of the battle of ambivalence. The 
ego took flight from these terrifying obsessions in 
manifold conceptions of the immortality of the soul 
and the body. We see these reactions to be the ex- 
pression of love for the mother and also of the un- 
conscious fear of death, a fear which has animated 
the first phantasies, turning against the ego in a 
form of self-castigation. This terror of dissolution 
is later replaced by the strengthened conviction that 
death cannot be the end. The ego needs to picture the 
beloved mother as immortal and indestructible ; and 
it must also protect itself against complete annihila- 
tion. After the death of another beloved person, the 



woman turns to far-reaching metaphysical specula- 
tions, which are constantly stimulated anew by the 
reading of various scientific works. 

In the course of analysis the memory of these 
hostile impulses threatened to break through to con- 
sciousness. As a reaction against such memories the 
unconscious fear of death began to operate, seeking 
to overwhelm the psyche by the old devices. The 
woman's phantasy of the necklace shows how she in- 
verts the idea of her own dissolution into a glamor- 
ous vision. The mother appears as a goddess, this 
signifying that the woman now welcomes death as 
atonement for unconscious death wishes against the 
mother. In fact, now that she is an aging woman 
who has suffered greatly, she has identified herself 
so closely with her mother that her beautiful vision 
can be explained in terms of affection also. 

It is not difficult to see how we progress from 
an analysis of this case to Shakespeare's phantasy. 
I submit that similar psychic processes were uncon- 
sciously at work in the poet. Hamlet's melancholy 
thoughts in the graveyard are in form and content 
strangely similar to the obsessions of neurotic pa- 
tients. Horatio chides the prince when he is brooding 
over dissolution, " 'Twere to consider too curiously, 
to consider so." What appears to be a diligent desire 
for precision and thoroughness is in reality a result 
of the same unconscious affects that we have seen 
behind the meditations of the obsessional neurotic. 
The same unconscious hate, the same concealed hos- 



tility and the same death anxiety of the ego operate 
in the thoughts of the prince and in the thoughts of 
our patient. 

The obsessions of the neurotic woman are full 
of the same concern with dissolution and with the 
contrast of death and life. In her girlhood she looked 
for traces of death everywhere, in "the falling of 
leaves, the bodies of animals and the faces of those 
dearest" to her. All things had but one meaning — 
how ripe were they for death ! It is like some modern 
synopsis of Hamlet's meditations that she must con- 
stantly repeat the thought that all earthly greatness, 
all the ingenuity of statesmen and the imaginative- 
ness of poets, must end in a little pile of ashes in an 
urn; that this is all that remains of men. We per- 
ceive more clearly the hidden motives behind these 
obsessional reflections when the patient tells us that 
she must think incessantly of death if her fear of 
dying is not to become overpowering. Her imagina- 
tion ever calls back these thoughts in order to over- 
come her terror of death. Alluding to the hero's 
preparations in Schiller's ballad, "The Fight with 
the Dragon," she describes the psychic process thus, 
"I urge on the hounds of my fancy closer and closer 
to the frightful sights to overcome the fear." 

A few years later her fear dwindles. The 
woman herself is older and has become calmer ; she 
feels herself closer to death. And now the darkest 
angel slowly takes on a more amiable countenance. 
"I do not come to punish," Death says to the girl in 



the Schubert song-. (To all of us, unconsciously, 
Death comes to punish.) The presages of death are 
now welcomed ; he who was once so dreaded is now 
desired. It is now that she begins to speculate upon 
the afterlife of the ego. Narcissism that was in dan- 
ger has found an asylum. The ego has burrowed out 
a refuge from the inexorable foe. 

It is now that she sees those beautiful visions of 
the transmutation of the ego which serve so success- 
fully as a denial of death, and even convert it into its 

Is it not apparent that Shakespeare's views on 
life and death followed slowly but profoundly an 
analogous transformation? Hamlet was written 
after the death of Shakespeare's father (1601). All 
the emotions of childhood were revived by this death, 
all the fears of childhood reawakened. The Dane 
meditates on the dissolution of the great men of this 
earth, and this reflects the poet's dual feelings of un- 
conscious triumph at the death of the father and 
longing for him. Some ten years later The Tempest 
was written; the poet is weary of his revolt; the 
fame he has won has become meaningless. He has 
returned home to Stratford, and there is something 
about him now that suggests he is preparing for that 
other homecoming. Now that youth is over, now that 
he is slowly and heavily turning his steps toward the 
final peace, the prospect of death and his attitude to- 
ward it change. His phantasies sound wearier and 
more poignant now, and mellower, like a noble old 



violin. It is less of a victory over life than a laying 
down of arras before it. Death is now welcomed ; it 
no longer means the terrible tyranny of fate, the 
dreaded end of all things. Children have been born 
to him ; his daughter is of marriageable age ; he has 
put his house in order. He himself, gathered closer 
to both his father and his forefathers, scarcely feels 
defiance any longer toward the authorities who rep* 
resented the father. Now that he himself is an aging 
father he sees the position of the father differently, 
for now he comprehends it. All the conflicts have 
slowly faded away, and the end is not triumph but 
resignation. (As Hans Sachs has put it in his beauti- 
ful study of The Tempest, "The puppets are now 
hanging on slack wires, for the puppeteer will soon 
go to his rest.") These, I believe, are the well springs 
of the feelings which inspire Ariel's beautiful song. 

The poet wrote his moving epilogue with deep 
emotion. It has the sad ring of farewell, and coupled 
with his longing for peace and gentle renunciation 
there is every mortal's melancholy, a knowledge of 
the last solitude before the end. The reconciliation 
with the father is consummated. Death is no longer 
terrible. ... "I do not come to punish." 

The echo of Hamlet's thoughts haunts the 
poet's own epitaph, as he blesses those who let his 
bones rest and curses those who stir his dust. As the 
obsessions of the Dane imply, Shakespeare's uncon- 
scious desires once pursued the hated object even be- 
yond the grave. The epitaph he is supposed to have 



chosen for his own body seems to be prompted by an 
unconscious fear of retaliation : 

"Good frend, for Jesus sake forebear 
To digg the dust encloased here 
Bleste be the man, that spares thes stones 
And curst be he that moves my bones." 

When we compare Hamlet's reflections with the 
phantasies of our obsessional neurotic we detect a 
similar structure of the psychic pattern of the two. 
The obsessional pursuit of an imaginative train 
which characterizes Hamlet is also manifested re- 
peatedly in the sick woman's brooding. It does not 
seem important whether the mind follows the path 
of things forward or backward. Let us compare the 
logical path which leads from the corpse of great 
Alexander to the final incarnation, where his dust 
stops a beer-barrel, with a similarly constructed 
phantasy of another obsessional neurotic. On a bill- 
board the patient has seen an advertisement for the 
Austrian cigarette brand, "Sphinx." The picture 
showed the Egyptian Sphinx holding a package of 
cigarettes in her claws. In a daydream the patient 
pursued the following obsessional train of thought : 
On the package of cigarettes he could clearly see the 
picture of the same sphinx, also holding a package 
of cigarettes in her claws. On this miniature package 
there must be a smaller picture of a smaller sphinx, 
and then a still smaller sphinx, and so on. He tried 



to follow them all down the line. There is a striking 
similarity between this obsessional train of thought 
and the incessant questions of children at the age 
that they are preoccupied with the mystery of birth. 
And we have observed that this problem, in later 
stages, almost invariably involves the question of 

We have further testimony of the inner linkage 
of the two concepts in the cosmogonies of the an- 
cients and of primitive peoples. Here, too, a world is 
born out of the body of a great god or a mighty 
hero. The heavens and the earth are formed of his 
different parts. The dead giant, Ymir, in the Edda, 
supplies the stuff for the formation of the world ; the 
earth is created out of his flesh, the mountains out 
of his legs, his skull forms the arch of Heaven and 
his sweat fills the seas. According to Hindu my- 
thology, the primitive being, Purusha, was sacrificed 
by the gods. Out of his brain arose the seas, his 
breath formed the ether, his feet became the earth, 
and warriors were fashioned out of his arms. Var- 
una undergoes a similar transformation: his eyes 
shine as the sun and moon, and so on. Babylonian, 
Egyptian, Chinese, and Orphic cosmogonies narrate 
the same myth — the cause-effect history of the death 
of a god and the beginning of the world. They ex- 
press a vestige of that tremendous act of patricide 
which all have forgotten, but whose psychic result 
once led to the great beginnings of community liv- 
ing. The myths give an explanation of the creation 



of the world which is the same as that expressed in 
idealized form in Ariel's song.* 

Our little discovery, in itself of small impor- 
tance, nevertheless led us far afield. "We have been 
guided toward a comparison in which the cathexis 
of an affective conception is shown to have existed 
in the mythical thought of the past, in the imagina- 
tion of the poet, and in the obsessional ideas of a 
neurotic. The ultimate extension of this phantasy, 
however, is to be found in the domain of religion. 
For in all these domains deepest affection and admi- 
ration arise out of hostile and cruel impulses. 

Let us not forget that these same unconscious 
impulses carry with them their profound psychic 
reaction; one instance of this reaction is the belief 
that the corpses of revered and beloved human be- 
ings acquire miraculous powers. Thus remains 
become relics. 

* Freud cited Ariel's song as a trace of an unconscious 
memory of primal patricide (Totem and Taboo). 




Freud was the first to analyze the goals and the 
technique of omission in both obsessions and 
wit. Omission seeks to distort the actual words of 
an obsessional idea and so protect it from the reason. 
Here is for instance the obsessional idea of one of 
my patients who applied a great deal of psychic en- 
ergy to stifle such blasphemous thoughts as, "If I tie 
a shoelace, I must curse God." Since this idea soon 
became involved with all shoelaces, he found himself 
compelled to walk in the street with his shoelaces un- 
tied. In order to understand this obsessional idea the 
analysis had to uncover the omitted intermediate 
steps. The sexual symbolism of threading the shoe- 
laces through the eyes is apparent. The mechanism 
is the familiar one of displacement upon an insignifi- 
cant act. If we re-create the train of thought, we see 
this, "If I wish to indulge in sexual intercourse, I am 
troubled by the thought of my father; I wish to 
curse him, and this curse might come true." This ob- 
sessional idea is transferred to God, as He is the su- 
preme one who forbids sexual activity. Here, there- 
fore, are the leading facts for the solution.* 

* During puberty the father, with strong threats, had for- 
bidden the son to practice onanism. At tbis same time other 
persons who were close to him had called onanism a sin and 
a crime against God. 



Let us compare this obsession with a witticism 
which also employs the technique of omission. The 
Viennese athlete and boxer, Jagendorfer, is in a cafe 
with friends telling them of an experience that hap- 
pened during the day. "Imagine! When I come to 
my coffee house today, wanting to play a game of 
billiards, my cue isn't around. I look all over and 
can't find it. Then I sees a fellow playing at another 
table and sees he has my cue. So I goes over to him 
and I says, 'Mister, that's my cue.' Says he, 'No, it's 
mine.' Says I, 'Mister, when I tell you that's my cue, 
you hand it over.' But he wouldn't give in and he 
kept saying it was his cue. So while they were get- 
ting a beefsteak for his peeper I saw that it wasn't 
really my cue." 

We may well ask whether there is any witticism 
here at all. Is this not rather a comic story? Let us 
examine it more closely. Our first impression might 
be that it is comical ; we laugh at an uncouth giant 
who knocks down a fellow man over such a trivial 
matter — and a man who is innocent, at that. Here 
we have that type of the comic where we contrast 
the expenditure of energy (in this case physical and 
affective energy) in other persons with what we 
would expend in a similar situation. It would seem 
to be this exaggerated expenditure that makes us 
laugh. It is as though we were to say, "What a fool ! 
Couldn't he have been more careful and found out 
whose cue it was ?" But as we suggest this explana- 
tion, we see how uncomical the situation really is; in 



reality we ought to be made indignant by this ab- 
sence of self-control and this brutality. 

Let us try the story in another version, "Then, 
when I'd hit him in the eye and knocked him out, 
I saw. ..." We see immediately that, although 
something of the comic survives, the story is shorn 
of anything which would give us grounds for call- 
ing it a witticism. Here, then, is one of the cases 
where the comic serves as a facade for a witticism. 
But the wit depends just on the element of omission 
and the succeeding allusion to what has been omit- 
ted. To continue the story with the "beefsteak" im- 
plies that the boxer considers knocking down the 
other man such a matter of course that he simply did 
not have to mention it ; in fact, he even mentions the 
beefsteak fleetingly, as part of a dependent clause. 

We perceive now that it was this technique which 
upheld the comical element, this very naturalness and 
nonchalance which characterize the assault. This 
element, together with the overwhelming success of 
the attack, operate together to subdue our indigna- 
tion at such brutality, and instead make us laugh. 
The effect is reinforced by the point of the boxer 
recognizing his error, for this underlines the aim- 
lessness and hastiness of his action; we laugh at this 
the way we laugh at the aimless and hasty move- 
ments of children.* 

We have not forgotten that the comic here is 
cloak for the witticism. The comic is fulfilled when we 

* Freud, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. 
[2I S ] 


laugh at the boxer; the witty side of the story per- 
suades us to laugh with him. What is more, we laugh 
at his narration of the incident for another reason : 
concealed by the forepleasure, there are released 
deeper unconscious impulses in us. We feel that 
these savage and violent impulses are really within 
everyone of us ; we, too, like the boxer, would be ca- 
pable of giving vent to them if we were graced with 
his physique, and if we were not restrained by cul- 
tural inhibitions. Our identification with the boxer 
acts to gratify our aggressive and sadistic impulses, 
for all inhibitions are released. Therefore we laugh 
from pleasure at having saved inhibitory energy. 

However, we do not want to treat of the psy- 
chogenesis of wit, but only of the special technique 
of omission. I should say that the latent meaning of 
omission technique, or elliptical distortion, is that 
it aims at the removal of an object. The omission is 
tantamount to expressing an unconscious desire to 
eliminate or kill the person in question. The techni- 
cal device of omission corresponds to a successful 
psychic effort to dispose utterly of a hated object (or 
a hated institution which has become symbolized in a 
person) . 

To illuminate this connection between a tech- 
nique and its latent content, we shall have to go far 
afield. Psychoanalytic literature has not yet appreci- 
ated how common it is for the psyche to utilize suc- 
cessfully a certain technique or form to express its 
hidden content. As Freud has shown, the dreamer 



often employs a similar technique when he reports 
his dream and conceals a part of its latent content by 
the device of a comment or a judgment. Often the 
truth of the dream content is secreted in just such a 
casual matter of form. In the same manner, idea- 
tional mimicry serves to express the ideation con- 
tent, as Freud has described in his section on "Idea- 
tional Mimicry." * 

We therefore rest in the belief that we have 
proved the hidden connection between the use of the 
elliptic distortion technique in obsessions and in wit, 
as well as the connection between this technique and 
the specific content of the omitted material. Our 
thesis is that the omission must be a manifestation 
of the suppressed tendency to annihilate the object 
We cannot say whether this is universally true, or 
only characteristic of individual cases. But let us ex- 
periment with our hypothesis, applying it to the ex- 
amples we have at hand. 

My patient whose obsession is expressed in an 
elliptical form, displays a prominent annihilation 
tendency; his goal is the destruction of the father. 
Nor can we mistake this same intent in Jagendor- 
fer's story. This story belongs in the same class as 
the exaggeration and boasting of street boys. I once 
overheard a half-grown butcher's boy in a quarrel 
with another boy cry out, "If I just touch you, 
there'll never be a coffin that will fit you." In other 
words, not only would he injure the other boy, but 
* Ibid. 



he would so radically deform him — and this by just 
touching him — that his enemy's shapeless corpse 
would never fit into a coffin. Here, too, there is an 
omission; but, corresponding to the less inhibited 
milieu, the content behind the omission — violent de- 
struction — is expressed immediately in the following 
clause. If we contrast this example with others, how- 
ever, we shall find that the threat does not always 
appear so openly on the surface. Usually the content 
behind the omission is given only feeble allusion in 
the next clause. 

We can actually trace this in our previous ex- 
amples by examination of the clause which follows 
the omission. In the patient's obsession, this clause 
was, "I must curse God." In the boxer's story the 
power of the blow, that is, of the aggressive tenden- 
cies, are expressed in the dependent clause, "so while 
they were getting a beefsteak for his peeper." It is 
as though the omission must find some adulterated, 
milder expression in the very next clause; a kind of 
substitute which only hints at the originally coarse 
content of the omitted words. 

Although mindful of the deficiencies of our ex- 
planation, we will describe the psychological situa- 
tion as follows : the preconsdous content behind the 
omission has the same ideational range as the substi- 
tutive formation (the following clause or allusion) ; 
the unconscious content can be guessed at by the ex- 
tent of the omission itself. The substitutive forma- 
tion or allusion therefore serves only as a field 



sketch, not as a complete map. The result clause, 
then, informs us of the aggressive and hostile char- 
acter of the omitted material; we know that what 
lies between the conditional and the result clause is 
charged with anger and hatred, but we are ignorant 
of the intensity of these emotions. Also, the goat, the 
annihilation or slaying of the object, is not admitted 
to our consciousness. 

The best analogy to this is afforded by the 
analysis of obsessional neurosis. Patients often con- 
fess that certain occasions or certain persons spur 
them to irritation or anger, but how deep are their 
affects and how fierce their senseless rage (which in- 
deed often leads to intense death wishes against the 
hated person) remain inaccessible to their conscious- 
ness. The result-clause of the obsessional idea (for 
example the one cited by Freud, "If I marry the lady, 
my father will have an accident," *) is extremely in- 

* Freud : Remarks on a Case of Obsessional Neurosis. The 
analysis of this particular case shows that behind the elliptic 
distortion there actually are unconscious death wishes directed 
against the father, which by virtue of the omnipotence of 
thought might be realized. The witticism Freud cites, "When 
X hears this, he will receive another box on the ear," does not 
apparently admit of such a content behind the omission. But if 
we consider the unconscious aggressive tendencies betrayed in 
the result-clause, we would perceive another case of the same 
annihilation desire directed toward the person who is derided. 
Freud has himself pointed out that there are similarities both 
of form and content between obsession and wit 

Freud has shown that omission (which he calls a variety 
of condensation without substitutive formation) is also a form 
of allusion. "For in every allusion there is realty something 



definite. The counterpart to this is the allusion in the 
witticism ("while they were getting the beefsteak 
for his peeper"). This sinister ambiguity is proof of 
the effort to conceal the real content of the obses- 
sion and of the witticism — which is death. The sub- 
stitutive formation brings back the omitted matter 
in a toned-down, emasculated form which is admis- 
sible to the consciousness. In special cases, when 
there can no longer be any doubt as to the shocking 
content of the omission, this substitutive formation 
seizes upon hypocritical or ironic defenses, as in the 
terrible words, "The only excuse for God is that He 
doesn't exist." 

We have therefore established the fact that the 
concealed significance behind the elliptical technique 
is the expression of violent destructive tendencies, 
unconscious death wishes, which cannot be ex- 
pressed aloud without inciting the indignation and 
aversion of the social group. Where this technique 

omitted, namely, the trend of thought that leads to the allusion. 
It is only a question of whether the gap, or the substitute in 
the wording of the allusion, which partly fills the gap, is the 
more obvious element. Thus we come back through a series 
of examples from the very clear cases of omission to those of 
actual allusion." {Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, 
trans, by Brill.) 

To contrast a clear case of omission with a witticism of 
allusion, we cite a scene in a play by Maurice Donnay. There 
a lady escapes the snares of a Don Juan and flees to the home 
of a friend of her husband's. The gentleman calms the fright- 
ened woman with the words, "Si vans etes chez moi, vous 
n'avez rien a craindre — des autres." 



of omission is applied to obscene expressions, we 
may remark that the intensive destructive tendencies 
are by no means absent ; the strivings are there or- 
ganically strengthened by sadistic tendencies di- 
rected against the object, something which is fre- 
quently the meaning behind the smutty joke. 

We can regard the omission that occurs in wit 
and obsessions as equivalent to those evasions of ac- 
tual statement, which become themselves the expres- 
sion of the suppressed content. The emasculated al- 
lusion in the result-clause, which is in reality a sub- 
stitutive formation, may consequently be compared 
to the euphemisms we frequently use for dying 
("pass away," "depart this life," and similar expres- 
sions). This comparison, however, must not be 
drawn too far, for what the omission in wit or ob- 
session actually expresses is an unconscious death 
wish. The omission is only a more veiled form of the 
wish, "Oh, if he were only out of the way, dead, 

Perhaps our first example — the obsession with 
blasphemy — will encourage us to venture an as- 
sumption on the origin of this technique of omis- 
sion. On the monuments of the ancient Orient, 
and in the ordinary language of certain Semitic 
peoples, there are such expressions as: X.Y. (a 
name) with the appended phrase: "May Tanit, 
Allah, etc., destroy him, may He blot out his name t" 
These, then, are names which are accursed. We may 
conceive that as centuries passed and repression 



mounted, the curses would gradually be suppressed 
and in their place a substitutive formation would 
arise. (As a transition stage we might have, "He, 
whose name may not be mentioned . . .") This sup- 
pressed, and eventually repressed, curse employed 
precisely the mechanism of omission to attain ex- 
pression. It is like a soldier deserting to the enemy 
in order to fight against his former comrades. 

Thus, omission as a method of suppression 
eventually became a method for the expression of 
the suppressed material. As precondition of omission 
there must be the suppression of the destructive im- 
pulses, but in this way omission itself became a psy- 
chic compromise, an instrument both for the re- 
pressed and repressive impulses. This also accounts 
for its becoming a "short circuit" of a witticism and 
its assuming the form of an apparent contradiction 
in an obsession. Just as in the psychology of the 
dream-work, absurdity here becomes a gesture of 
challenge against the repressing forces. 

We shall cite but one additional example of el- 
liptic wit technique. The famous Viennese actor, 
Girardi, once gave this reply to a colleague who had 
asked him for money, "You know what, my friend. 
Let's both get angry at each other instead." 

At first this seems to be pure nonsense, but 
after a moment's reflection we see that it demon- 
strates the profound worldly wisdom of the actor. 
The meaning is : "If I lend you money now, I'll be 

[222 ] 


doing it against my will and so I'll be angry with 
you. My annoyance will increase if — as is likely — 
you don't return the money. But it is impossible that 
this feeling will escape showing some outward 
traces ; somehow it will find an outlet, and we shall 
become enemies. . . ." We can continue this psy- 
chological interpretation in the other direction. The 
borrower is already unconsciously hostile to his 
more fortunate colleague because he has been sub- 
jected to the humiliation of asking for money. This 
feeling is aggravated by the reaction from the guilt- 
feeling that he may not ever return the money. 
Therefore, on his side also, there is no doubt how 
the affair will turn out. If they follow the friendly 
advice to both get angry, they will not only save 
money, but also will be spared a series of unpleasant 
events and emotions. 

Here, to be sure, the unconscious death wish is 
not expressed. It is only the elliptical form that testi- 
fies to its presence. But the actor's advice betrays the 
fact that powerful hostile feelings have already been 
aroused toward the borrower by the very prospect 
that the money would not be returned. The uncon- 
scious consequence of these affects, however, is the 
death wish. And, as a matter of fact, "being angry" 
really means no longer existing in each other's re- 
gard. Do we not say of a bitter enemy. "He no 
longer exists as far as I'm concerned," or, "For my 
part, he is dead" ? 



Thus, in the technique of wit and in the for- 
mulation of obsessions, we unconsciously confess 
our vicious thoughts by the very omission which is 
intended to conceal them. 




It may be daring to remind the world that solitude 
and society are not absolute opposites, particu- 
larly at a time in which so many of our best minds 
are fervently pledging allegiance to collectivism. 
"Whoever wishes to be intellectually creative must 
submit himself to a peculiar rhythm : he is bound to 
withdraw from other men and he must return to 
them again. Only in solitude can the mind work crea- 
tively. A man who seeks only among other men will 
never find himself. Yet the dichotomy between the 
demands of the community and this need for loneli- 
ness is only an apparent duality. Whoever wishes to 
influence men has need of them ; he must speak their 
language and he cannot do without their help. 

These are dangerous alternatives. For many, 
society becomes bondage ; and for many, solitude is 
fatal. Some cannot find tranquillity, and many who 
have found it cannot find their way back to the world 
of men. Some are so deafened by the tumult about 
them that they can no longer hear their own inner 
voice; and many hear only this and have no more 
communion with the world. 

The life of every free, fruitful spirit moves like 



a pendulum between these two poles. He dares not 
live only for the others; something always drives 
him back into solitude. And he dares not live only 
for himself; something always drives him back to 
other men. 

Long ago psychoanalysis clearly showed us how 
such a rhythm impelled the artist, and particularly 
the poet. The poet withdraws in disillusion from 
reality, yet it is his very work that is a touchstone 
back to the world of men. And the poet has an even 
happier gift than the Lord Jehovah — for the poet's 
works satisfy both creator and created, as well as the 
onlookers who identify themselves with these created 

It is otherwise with the work of the scientist. 
The word he brings forth from his solitude does not 
appease the passions or satisfy the needs of the 
many ; does not fulfill man's desires with that swift- 
ness and variety which is the peculiar faculty of art. 
It does satisfy our need for knowledge of causes and 
effects, but this need is not particularly urgent in 
most human beings. While violent and vague desires 
dwell in all of us, reason is a rarer thing. Moreover, 
the scientist fails not only to satisfy our constant de- 
sires; he may make himself unpopular by question- 
ing the value of such desires and destroying our 
most cherished illusions. When the scientist publishes 
the results of his work, he has often forgotten that 
many of his contemporaries prefer the two birds in 
the bush to the one in the hand. And he who forgets 


man's dual need 

that men's views are often only shadows cast by 
their desires will suffer scorn and rejection. 

We are often told that all true happiness is to 
be found in society. This is certainly false. Solitude, 
too, gives promise of much happiness. ("Lass dies 
Herz alleine haben seine Wonne, seine Pein." — 
"Let this heart possess alone all its joy and all its 
pain.") But this happiness needs to be voiced. How 
strong must this inner need have been in many men, 
who spoke out in spite of the scorn and anger they 
aroused; and yet, how powerful must the inner voice 
have been which lived so long without echo! 

Here I am led to an intuition that seems to me 
deeper than Nietzsche's cry, "All joy wants eter- 
nity !" Perhaps the child and the savage, as well as 
those in whom psychic ills have caused a reversion 
to these earlier stages of development, are content 
with solitary pleasures. But for adult man the truth 
is that all joy wants society. 




"Mein Kind, wir waren Kinder . . * 



IT was rather strange how we felt, my younger sis- 
ter and myself, every time we overheard a prov- 
erb in the conversations of grownups. Some of them 
we could understand immediately. When someone 
said, "However you throw a cat it always falls on its 
feet," then, of course, the meaning was quite plain. 
We knew that, for we ourselves had tried the experi- 
ment time and again. But why was this proverb used 
when one of the partners in the conversation would 
keep on obstinately coming back to the same point ? 
Many proverbs were quite unintelligible to us 
and remained so for a considerable time. For in- 
stance, what was the significance of the phrase: 
"Drag me by force, I'm willing to come" ? It was an 
allusion to a girl who made a great deal of fuss 
about keeping a suitor at arm's length. How peculiar 
and utterly absurd for us children was the proverb : 
"Every mother is a mother." Naturally, every 
mother is a mother since she has got a child. We 
could not then realize that the psychological impor- 

* Reprinted from Life and Letters Today, Vol. 21, Nos. 22 
and 23, June and July, 1939. Translated by Gerd Abraham. 



tance of motherhood was driven home by the ob- 
viousness of the remark. 

For simple folk as well as for children it is, I 
think, but one step from the unusual and incompre- 
hensible to the farcical. The Jewish proverbs and 
sayings which, at an early age, we heard at home, 
seemed to us for the most part more or less funny — 
we just laughed at them as we did at a joke. 

The dissimilarities between a joke and a prov- 
erb are so evident that we are led to shut our eyes 
sometimes to the fact that both phenomena are 
neighbors in respect of their actual origin and their 
result. There exists a genetic connection of a distinct 
kind: many a proverb can be proved to have crystal- 
lized from a comical anecdote or a joke. "Rotten fish 
and a thrashing to boot" was an occasional saying. 
Its origin, obviously, is an anecdote or a funny tale 
of a man who buys worthless goods and, voicing his 
discontent, gets a thrashing into the bargain. On the 
other hand, a number of jokes owe their popularity 
to a witty presentation or a distortion of well-known 
proverbs and phrases. 

In Jewish everyday life, the line of demarcation 
between the contiguous phenomena of the proverb 
and the joke often becomes indistinct. There is evi- 
dence of the fact that proverbs and precepts of tal- 
mudical or biblical times were subjected, later on, to 
farcical applications or variations. It might be ar- 
gued at this point that we should leave to the mo- 
mentary psychical effect the decision whether the 



matter in question be a proverb, a funny story, or a 
joke. But even this criterion often becomes uncer- 
tain: what are we dealing with in this case, for in- 
stance — is it an otherwise reputable proverb which 
has been disguised by a picturesque costume, or a 
fool's cap, or merely a joke pretending to be didactic 
and posing as a proverb? We smile, as if the differ- 
ence were but of small importance. 

Indeed, most of them seemed to us funny. Was 
it not funny to be told: "Wash me, but do not wet 
me" ? However, as often as not the fun left an after- 
taste, for we found many of these sayings detest- 
able. They were in strong contrast to our feelings, 
but also to the ethics and views imparted to us at 
school and at home. There was, for instance, the 
phrase : "To kill a chicken and not hurt it." To us 
children it was a matter of course not to inflict pain 
on an animal unnecessarily. It was only many years 
later that we found out the real meaning of this 
phrase : that to attain a definite goal one must not 
have an exaggerated delicacy of feeling. Qualms 
must not deter you if you are bent on success. An- 
other phrase seemed even more strange. A person 
who was generally disliked was being discussed, 
and somebody said: "If God is so fond of him He 
had better take him." This was utterly incomprehen- 
sible. There was nothing peculiar in that God should 
take to Him some person He was fond of. But why 



was it said in such a strange tone? We recognized 
much later that it was a euphemistic expression of a 
desire for the person's death, and we took exception 
to it, all the more because it was uttered in connec- 
tion with "our Lord." In the same way we strongly 
objected to the saying: "He who is kind to himself 
is kind to others." We had been taught not to try to 
promote our own welfare, but that of others, and to 
repress, in their favor, our own self-seeking inter- 
ests. This proverb recommended almost the reverse. 
It took us a long time to comprehend the psychologi- 
cal justification of the words. The study of one's 
own life and of the lives of our fellow men proves 
that it is impossible to neglect one's own interest to 
an excessive extent in favor of that of others. Too 
much consideration of others must lead to an inordi- 
nate desire to revenge one's self on those others for 
such self-denial and for a sacrifice that was too 
great. Unconsciously free play will be given to all 
evil or revengeful impulses. However, such a maxim 
must by no means be mistaken for a pronunciation 
of "sacro egoismo." It is rather a reactive egoism 
which crops up, a warning originating from the en- 
dopsychic perception and coinciding with the find- 
ings of analytical empiricism. We must try to tol- 
erate our own egoistical impulses, too, to a certain 
degree, lest we treat our neighbor badly and even 
maliciously, instead of kindly. 

Exceptional attention was given to proverbs 
which referred to the family — most of them also in- 



comprehensible or contradictory to our childish feel- 
ings. For instance, it was said of a couple who were 
eternally quarreling, "They do not really quarrel, 
but their 'dalles' will fight." The Jewish word 
"dalles," which we had heard before, meant indi- 
gence, actual want. Life showed us later on how 
great a part is played by a strained financial situa- 
tion in the origin of conjugal conflicts. Plain com- 
mon sense made us refuse to admit that the wish in 
the phrase, "You shall be the wealthiest in your fam- 
ily" is equivalent to a malediction. Was it not some- 
thing devoutly to be wished, to be the wealthiest of 
the family ? Was it not the best opportunity to sup- 
port poor members of the family, to make life less of 
a burden to them ? We did not know then that to be 
the wealthiest in a Jewish family means to be wor- 
ried forever whether the existent means will suffice 
to help every one of them ; never to be able to enjoy 
one's own wealth, because family feeling will not 
permit a man to enjoy the pleasant things of life 
which are denied to his relatives. We were much 
disgusted by a saying like the following which was 
quoted over and over again: "If the father shares 
his money with the son, both may laugh ; if the son 
shares his money with the father, both may weep." 
We had a distinct feeling that this view was utterly 
wrong. Most certainly we were ready to give up 
everything for our beloved father, to make whatever 
sacrifice might be demanded from us. And yet the 
proverb would have it that it was only the father 



who enjoyed helping his son, while the son would be 
sorry if he had to care for his father. As frequently 
happened, this proverb refers to unconscious psychic 

Much to our astonishment we overheard pro- 
verbial phrases about our staff. Our highly esteemed 
cooks, for instance, were characterized as "paid ene- 
mies." In this connection a hypothetical possibility 
of God's having a family suddenly arose. "If God's 
sister was a servant, she would be not better than 
this one," which meant that our present maid was 
not much good, but it was no use sending her away, 
the next would be the same. 

On the whole it was astonishing what a strange 
part God played in these proverbs. One phrase con- 
firmed God's omnipotence when it said: "If God 
wills it, a broom will fire shots." The broom's func- 
tion as a gun was indeed a funny idea. After all it 
was not quite clear why God should use a broom 
when He was able, in His omnipotence, to make a 
gun or a revolver go off. On the other hand, there 
was a phrase which seemed to express serious doubts 
as to God's omnipotence. It sounded like a sigh : "All 
right, God will help, but who is going to help us 
until He does?" Who but Himself should give help 
in the meantime, if need should arise? 

tn recalling those proverbs and phrases heard 
in early youth, the memory of the people who used 



them is easily evoked. Many beloved phantoms rise 
up from the shadowy past, and many hated ones as 
well. These proverbs were uttered on various occa- 
sions by our parents, relations, friends, and ac- 
quaintances, but most of them, by far, came from 
our grandfather. I must now relate a few things 
about him. 

In my memory he lives on as a very old and tall 
man with white hair always covered by a small cap, 
and with spectacles over the top of which he looked. 
I can still see him in his old-fashioned, somewhat 
untidy dressing gown, slouching through the house, 
as often as not taking snuff out of a small black 
snuffbox and talking or shouting in the Jewish-Ger- 
man idiom. I was told later that he was a well- 
known, even famous Talmudist. I myself can re- 
member Jewish scholars and pious men coming fre- 
quently to see him in order to study or argue with 
him — until late in the night we could hear, in our 
bedrooms, their loud voices which they made no ef- 
fort to lower. 

My grandfather had spent the best part of his 
life as a businessman and Jewish scholar in a vil- 
lage situated near the Austrian-Hungarian frontier, 
where there was still a sort of ghetto. We children 
had frequently spent our holiday there ( Nagy-Mar- 
ton, today called Matter sdorf, in Austria), and we 
had often wondered at the strange practices and hab- 
its in the small Jewish community. Our grandfather 
encouraged us to take part in the religious rites 



which we could only imperfectly follow, but by 
which we were deeply impressed. New Year, the 
Day of Atonement, beginning and end of Sabbath 
left their lasting marks on our minds. Very ancient 
synagogue choral music which I heard in those times 
comes to my mind even now. 

After his wife's death my grandfather, already 
old and frail, found himself alone, without sufficient 
means of subsistence. He moved to Vienna and came 
to live with us in our rather small flat. I well remem- 
ber the day of his arrival, because his first action 
upset us a good deal. There was a marble bust on a 
sideboard representing either Venus or Apollo. Our 
grandfather must have been struck by it when he 
first walked through our rooms. He seized a chair, 
climbed on it rather clumsily, and with a hammer 
struck off the bust's nose. This incomprehensible act 
had, of course, a religious motive : my grandfather, 
who was fanatically devout, would on no account 
tolerate images in rooms inhabited by him, since 
those images were strictly forbidden by the Jewish 
commandments. ("Thou shalt not make unto thee 
any graven image.") This act was the beginning of 
a bitter struggle, lasting for many years, between 
grandfather and father, interrupted only by short or 
long truces. Long and violent debates were fought 
out on religion, its object and justification, its atti- 
tude towards civilization and progress. There was 
no bridge from one shore to the other — from the 



standpoint of a God-fearing proselytizer to an ag- 
nostic, from a medieval to a modern mind. 

But the point in question was not merely theo- 
retical. Many excited discussions were held with re- 
gard to the observance of the religious laws in the 
kitchen, and my grandfather insisted with obstinacy 
upon its ritual strictness. Since my father would not 
submit to this dictatorship, and since there was but 
one kitchen, it was extremely difficult to keep a strict 
division between "pure" and "impure." It was al- 
most impossible to prevent plates for meat coming 
into contact with those for milk, and not even the 
slightest of any such transgressions escaped my 
grandfather's relentless control. Each such discov- 
ery ended in a scene in which he tried to enforce his 
despotic will upon the household. But my father — 
revolted by this tyranny and, all the same, pitying 
the old and lonely man — could not forego his ad- 
vanced views. In the conflict between father and 
husband it was my mother who suffered most. Yet 
she could not make up her mind to send the old man 
to a home for old people. We children gradually be- 
gan to detest our grandfather. Yet there are many 
memories from our earliest childhood which show 
that in spite of all that, we loved and admired him, 
and that his strange tenderness towards us must 
have found an echo in our minds. 

It did not always happen that those disputes be- 
tween grandfather and father took such a violent 
turn. Now and then there were peaceful, even 



friendly conversations, and I know that some of the 
funny or witty sayings of the old man made my 
father laugh heartily. But generally the contrasting 
views brought about all too soon a rupture in the dis- 
cussions. If matters came to this point it would fre- 
quently happen that my father felt upset and de- 
clined to talk to his father-in-law for several days. 
In that case the two men who, after all, felt the need 
of expressing their views, would live like strangers 
side by side. Our grandfather then remained in his 
room for the better part of the day, moodily playing 
the part of King Lear. His sense of guilt and his 
wish for reconciliation must apparently have been 
fairly strong, for he always managed to make my 
father, who was irritable but good-natured to the 
extreme, start talking to him again. 

I remember during one of these periods of a tem- 
porary breaking off of diplomatic relations, we hap- 
pened to hear strange sounds in my grandfather's 
room. He was walking up and down talking to him- 
self : "ba, ba, ba, ba, ba . . ." My mother and we 
children rushed into his room crying, "What is the 
matter? What are you saying?" "Nothing," he re- 
plied. "I am giving myself some practice in order not 
to forget how to talk altogether. Nobody else will 
talk to me." 

I can still see the figure of the old man at the hour 
of my father's death. Praying aloud he entered the 
room where the man, by many years his junior, was 
lying in his last sleep. In accordance with the reli- 



gious rites, my grandfather first of all covered up 
the mirror and opened the windows, so that the soul 
of the dead man might ascend towards heaven. After 
that event he seems to have grown even more laconic 
and gloomy. He died not long afterwards in a perse- 
cution mania full of religious delusions. It was from 
this tyrannical, detested, and yet much admired 
grandfather that I heard a great many of those Jew- 
ish proverbs. 


Something said in passing often reappears after 
many years like an echo. The hoard of proverbs and 
idiomatic phrases overheard by us children long ago, 
was quickly "forgotten," it sank down into the deep- 
est regions of the soul from where it emerged only 
very much later. Just as mysterious as the causes 
which determine their disappearance, are the mo- 
tives which force these phrases up to the surface 
again. Very frequently no connecting links are dis- 
cernible in the actual situation. Our introspection 
does not remind us that we have searched our mem- 
ory for those sentences; they simply turn up. That 
the aftereffect of those proverbs overheard in early 
youth may prove more significant than the effect, the 
echo more important than the first sound, will be 
shown by a single example. 

In my analytical research my attention had been 
drawn to the effect of a psychic tendency which I 
pursued in its manifestations both in nervous and 
healthy individuals. There is a conflict between 



strong impulses appearing for biological reasons, 
and opposing forces caused by the development 
of civilization and bent on suppressing and dis- 
placing the former. In this conflict the forbidden 
impulses have provided for themselves an uncon- 
scious outlet. Under the effect of the two oppo- 
site forces there arises a possibility of utterance and 
expression recognizable as to content and form as a 
compromising action, as an unconscious admission 
of those hidden impulses. The psychic tendency 
breaking through by such compromising actions I 
have called unconscious compulsions to confession. 
Their compulsory character becomes evident, for the 
greater part, from the instinctive nature of the orig- 
inal, repressed impulses, but also from the strong 
pressure of the reactive sense of guilt. The striving 
to give expression to the impulses suppressed by the 
conscious mind had — under the influence of certain 
cultural factors — led to the development of compul- 
sions to confession, which clearly exhibit all the 
characteristics of their origin and present them- 
selves as something intermediate between conceal- 
ment and representation. 

Some time after I had formulated my experi- 
ences and views in a book, Compulsions to Confess 
and the Desire for Punishment (1926), I suddenly 
remembered one of those sentences frequently used 
by my grandfather and completely forgotten up to 
that day. When my father, hurt by some of my 
grandfather's remarks in one of those excited dis- 



cussions, had left the room, we often heard this 
phrase. The old man would sigh deeply and mutter ; 
"When we are alive we are forbidden to talk. When 
we are dead we cannot talk." We children laughed 
secretly for we only understood the literal sense of 
this saying which we considered a commonplace. We 
little thought that from this statement followed the 
question: When, after all, is talking permitted? 
When are we allowed to express our views ? It was 
that phrase which prompted me to recognize the psy- 
chic development of my theory of compulsions to 
confession whose character takes the form of a com- 
promise owing to the co-operation and opposition of 
biological and cultural facts. 

Sounds that we heard around us in early youth 
we hear again in us in later years. We do not show 
enough surprise, I think, when phrases from the 
time of our childhood turn up again after a long in- 
terval ; when all at once we give utterance to expres- 
sions heard in years long gone by and never heard 
since ; when sentences usually unfamiliar to our con- 
sciousness come to mind and idiomatic proverbs that 
we had entirely forgotten, and for which we should 
have searched our memory quite in vain. We are 
surprised just as if we had unexpectedly met after a 
long time a childhood friend. It appears to us as if 
somebody else uttered those words, and yet it was 
the Ego, a part of the Ego that has become estranged 
to us. Those part-comical part-serious sentences, 
asleep for a long time in unknown depths of our 



minds, wi]I return more and more frequently the 
older we grow. They demand that we should listen 
to them and obey them. What is their purport? To 
remind us of our childhood, or our parents and 
grandparents who once upon a time pronounced 
them ? They are a warning to us that we are to set 
out on the way they have gone. They summon us 
to our forefathers long before we are gathered to 

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